By Craig Funston
One of the most difficult tasks today is to be honest with each other. Most people, if asked about their level of honesty, would claim to be somewhere between honest and quite honest.
That “lie” would be a dead giveaway.
We think we’re honest when we do certain things in a certain way by a certain time. “Truth” be told, it’s not quite that way. There are so many examples, I hardly know where to start. Birthday or anniversary cards might be the worst (or best?) example. They may say more (but rarely less) than we want; however, they make for a better relationship.
Kids will say they got a chore done, when, in fact, it was almost done. Did they or did they not get the dishes done? The homework done? The bed made?
The child answers “Yes,” when, in fact, it’s “Almost.” Is that “dishonesty”? It seems harsh say it is, but it is. There may be a deeper reason why kids cannot be as open as we want them to be.
The child becomes an adult, so the questions change a little: Were they exceeding the speed limit? Did they mean everything that was said on that anniversary card? Was it just one beer? “Yes,” should be replaced with “Nearly” or “Pretty well.”
The answer, right or wrong, is actually not the issue. The reason behind the answer is. Why are we hesitant to come up with the correct and frank answer? Kid or adult, why can’t we say we didn’t do the laundry, we didn’t trim all the grass, or we stayed out later? Why can’t we say we bought something extra that we shouldn’t have, why we don’t actual feel about that person the way we said we feel, or why we hate our job?
One of the more noble motivations for this “dishonesty” is that we don’t want to hurt or disappoint whomever we’re talking to. In the main, this is good. We want them to feel positive about us and be happy with us. So it’s back to “us,” and that includes you or me.
We may not tell the whole truth (“whole truth”: Isn’t that redundant?) because we don’t want to suffer any consequences. Dishes not done, for example, could mean punishment for a messy kitchen, more dish duty, or some form of grounding.
Whatever is the issue, we don’t want to suffer consequences for telling the truth.
A second reason for not telling the truth is that we may lose a relationship. If we lie about a personal vice, we are simply hiding something. They may not understand us, and might tend to mock us or reject us.
So a third reason for not being honest is to cover up some form of weakness. I think most of us find it hard to be vulnerable or transparent with each other. Part of that problem is trust (or lack thereof) and feeling insecure in our relationship(s).
See how complicated not being honest can get?
This column is an example in being pretty honest with you—maybe more honest than pretty, at that.. Always? No, almost always. But when I say that, I wonder if you’re thinking that I’m not being truthful with you. See how these word games show up?
I’m always truthful in this space. I just don’t express my fears or outrage or confusion to their fullest extent. I don’t think there’s a place for that here; that is, a personal opinion in a public arena. There has to be some socially-acceptable caution exhibited.
I know we would have much better relationships (pick your preference: husband-wife, employer-employee, teacher-student, teacher-parent, retailer-consumer) if we could develop the art (and science?) of being more open with each other.
If that was the case, issues wouldn’t fester, resulting in blow-ups, ulcers, divorce, rage, shootings, or a whole host of other reactions. Pick any fractured relationship you know of-–or are involved in. If the two warring parties could have just been honest with each other, most of what is said and done would not have happened, and the relationship would have been so much smoother.
Let me start the list: eating disorders, anger, unemployment, divorce—and I’m just warming up.
So, if nothing else, learn to couch your feeling with some tact; learn to push back gently without shooting your mouth off. Short term pain (read: awkwardness, embarrassment, fear) should give way to conversation governed by a hope for long term gain.
And that’s the honest truth.