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Telling the truth is an important aspect of human interrelationships. We expect honesty from those around us and in return, we tend to give it back. At least, that’s the theory.

It’s a fine line, however, between being honest and being an asshole. Telling someone what you think is important; sometimes, however, it’s best just to shut up – or even telling them a half-truth or an outright lie. For example, it’s one thing to tell a woman that a dress isn’t particularly flattering. It’s another to tell her that a dress makes her look fat. It’s downright dangerous to tell your fiancée that her wedding dress makes her look like a hippo.

We all like to voice our opinions. We’re downright eager to do it; ask someone what they think and they’re only too happy to tell you. Opinions, as the saying goes, are like assholes – everyone’s got one. That’s my opinion anyway.

But an opinion is just that. You don’t have to be particularly knowledgeable to voice one. Most of the time, our opinions come from external sources – the news media, friends and family, the Internet. More often than not our opinions come from sound bites and slogans; not a very informed way of coming up with our own idea, but it beats reading, right? That’s why when I read the commentary on a news article online, I’m often appalled at just how ignorant most of it is and much of it is used as an excuse to flame somebody, or to spout off some jingoistic nonsense about America being number one and all that happy horse manure (America is many things, but it isn’t the best place on Earth in every way; to think so is arrogant and uninformed).

We do the same thing when it comes to personal matters. We often will give free advice to people who aren’t looking for any, spouting off on things we don’t have the complete facts about on most occasions. Often that can spell hurt feelings and ruined friendships, or at the very least some uncomfortable silences between us. I’ve been responsible for way too many of those in my day.

The trick is to know when to express your opinion and when to keep it to yourself. The answer is surprisingly simple – never volunteer it when it’s not asked for, and when it is asked for, give it as honestly as you can while trying to ensure that you aren’t hurting the other person’s feelings. If your fiancée asks you what you think of her wedding dress, tell her you don’t like it. If pressed for a reason, tell her it accentuates the wrong features instead of her best ones. You don’t have to tell her that it makes her look like a stripper even if it does. Always keep in mind that you are dealing with someone who has feelings; tact is an invaluable tool to have.

Not everyone has it. I know people who bulldoze their way through life, always giving the excuse that “I’m just being honest,” or that “I have to say how I feel. I can’t keep it inside or I’ll be hurt.” First of all, both of those excuses are bullshit. It’s not all about you. Honesty has a direct connection to cruelty; you may tell the world you’re just being honest but in reality you’re being cruel. It’s a way of making yourself feel better, feel superior to the rest of us. Putting someone down is very often a means of pulling yourself up, and using honesty as a kind of self-righteous blanket is not only mean, it’s also transparent. Most people can see through that kind of excuse.

Secondly, you don’t have to say how you feel. Maybe your best friend is in a toxic relationship; maybe they are going down a road that leads directly to Heartbreak Avenue. Maybe you feel the urge to tell them that their boyfriend or girlfriend is an utter dirtbag. Do yourself a favor; resist the urge. You may think you’re doing it for your friend, but in reality you’re doing it for yourself. Most people who are in a relationship don’t want to hear the bad stuff and telling them that you think they can do better is only going to drive them further into the arms of the person you think is bad for them. Unless there’s physical abuse going on, or the situation is dangerous and you fear for their life and limb, shut your piehole. It is much better to be there to pick up the pieces then send them stubbornly to stay in a relationship longer than they need to. It may be hard, but chances are they will find out on their own that the person they’re with is wrong for them. Be their friend, yes but don’t be their judge. If they want to know what you think, fine. Tell them “I don’t think this person is right for you.” If pressed, give them your reasons, but always be civil and try not to be insulting. If all you have is a feeling, make sure you’re clear about it; “I can’t really put my finger on it, but I really don’t like this person. Something about them bothers me.”

Take it from someone who has learned the hard way how easy it is to bruise others with words; an opinion is much more valuable from someone who only gives them rarely. Certainly I use my blog to express myself and from time to time I might aggravate people with my opinions, particularly when it comes to politics and religion. I understand that and know that those folks who are politically conservative or religious might disagree with some of my beliefs. That’s perfectly fine. It’s one thing to say “I think conservatives are being hypocritical in their Obama-bashing.” It’s quite another to say “I think conservatives are hypocrites.”

First of all, I don’t believe all conservatives are hypocrites (there are some who are, just as there are plenty of liberals who are too). I don’t agree with their political agenda in all cases, but I respect them enough to believe that they are as sincere in their beliefs as I am in mine. One of my closest friends from college is very conservative, and we’ve had some spirited discussions about various issues but I don’t for one moment think that his opinions are meant as a personal attack on me, nor do I think that he is a lesser person because we disagree politically. I know he would have my back in a heartbeat as I would his, even if we agree to disagree on socialized medicine. I respect his opinions even though they differ from mine. Appreciating differing viewpoints is the path to wisdom.

Expressing ourselves is a basic need; it may not be as vital as feeding ourselves or protecting ourselves, but it is vital nonetheless. We have an inner need to be recognized, to be validated by others. While that need usually is much more insistent in teenagers, who are struggling to find themselves, it remains with us all our lives. We need that validation; otherwise we find ourselves feeling inconsequential, marginal. If we aren’t making some kind of mark on the world, we feel as if we’re failures at life.

We all have a voice and a need to use it for matters both deep and otherwise. Most of us, sadly, don’t know how to use it properly, how to express ourselves without inflicting pain on others or sometimes, without adequately explaining what we’re trying to get across. While saying “that sucked” might be all the opinion some are capable of, at the end of the day that’s just bull makings. Saying that something sucks – well, honestly. Saying why it sucks and how it could be better – that’s honesty. That’s the difference between saying something to make yourself feel better, and saying something meaningful that people will respect and consider. Anyone can be a wiseass; it’s far better to be wise and the truly wise know it’s better to keep their mouths shut and be thought a fool than to say something and remove all doubt.


4 Responses

  1. HONESTY and TRUE !!!!!!!!

  2. I totally agree with your stance.
    Many people wield ‘honesty’ as a deadly weapon. Some do this unconsciously, driven by a secret (even from themselves) inner need to wound others as they have been wounded. There would be hope for them with counseling.
    Some simply do this as a result of learned behavior. There could be hope for them with teaching.
    Then there are those who consciously & maliciously use it as an excuse to be cruel. There is real pleasure & satisfaction for them in inflicting pain on others. Little hope for them as they are unlikely to ever see any need to change.
    A favorite quote (Author Unknown) of mine fits here:

    People will forget what you have said.
    People will forget what you have done.
    People will never forget how you made them feel.

  3. A poet once wrote, Truth is beauty,Beauty truth
    That is all you know in life and all you need to know.. Words are subjective, but truth remains despite man’ and woman’s manipulations.

  4. It is really amazing, what you have written. Congratulations.

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