Honesty - A Hard Pill to Swallow
My mother used to tell me that she loved me enough to tell me "No" even when she knew I would hate her for it. At the time, I remember feeling suffocated and misuderstood. It took me many years to appreciate, or even understand, what she was talking about, and even longer to apply it to my own life.
Many times in life, we are faced with the difficulty of knowing when it may be best to be dishonest. We may even disguise it with the illusion of good; a "white lie". When your wife asks you, "Does this make me look fat?" or a potential employer asks why you are looking to leave your present position, it can be difficult to determine the difference between the right answer and the easy one.
I have been faced with this diliema numerous times throughout my life, and many times I have chosen the easy road. "No, those pants looks great," or "You did the right thing," usually ends up being the easier response for me, even if not the most honest one.
I had a friend throughout middle school and high school that was known for her sometimes brutal honesty. Near the end of high school and our first year of college, she was my official partner in crime. Together we tested the limits, broke the rules, and acted with little regard for the consequences. That is, until I crossed the line.
"The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale." - Arthur C. Clark
"The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple." -Oscar Wilde
"I don't want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their jobs." -Samuel Goldwyn
"Speak the truth, but leave immediately after." -Slovenian proverb
"Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger." -Franklin P. Jones
In all of the bedlam of boys and booze, I had become a monster; cocky, self-righteous, and what's worse, completely unaware. My mind had become clouded by the intoxication of walking into a room and feeling not just like a part of the party, but as if I was the party. In a short time I had built up a reputation for myself, a status that in my mind was much more glamorous than the truth.
And it was in a single e-mail; a few paragraphs highlighting the painful reality of my actions; the brutal honesty of one friend, that I finally realized what I had become. Even now, it is hard to look back at those actions and acknowledge them as my own.
Four months later my "partner in crime" was killed by a drunk driver, t-boned by an SUV less than a mile from the local bar, driven by a girl that could have easily been me, prior to my forced epiphany. And it changed my life in ways that I would never have imagined.
From that moment on, I began living my life with a "pay it forward" sort of attitude, making decisions with complete regard for possible outcomes, and accepting the consequences with the understanding that things could be worse. Don't get me wrong, I still know that there will always be a time and a place for "white lies", or my all-time favorite, the "omission of details", but I now also recognize the instances where brutal honesty is absolutely necessary. .
When it finally came time for me to "pay it forward", I once again struggled between the right decision and the easy one. I was watching a friend stumble down that same misguided path that I had crossed several years before, and was torn between the moral responsibility of telling her the truth and having her hate me, or holding my tongue and my friendship.
After several weeks of careful consideration (and procrastination), I made my decision, and I was right. She hated me for it. And the consequences that followed were painful at best, but I never once regretted my decision. And despite many months of silent spite, our friendship is now stronger than ever.
Sometimes when you truly care about someone, you have to tell them the truth, no matter how much it hurts, and even if you know they'll hate you for it. Life is full of tests; tests of strength, tests of character, and so on. And at the end of the day, I'd rather be graded on the actions I took rather than the decisions I avoided.
What do you think?