Words like honesty and transparency are tossed around a lot lately in various social media circles. Consumers and readers are tired of the canned media message that’s been passed through several marketing and public relations reps. “Just tell the truth,” is the mantra of the public.
Because I’m all about honesty, and there are many circles in which I’m not popular for that trait. “Why can’t you just pretend, this once?” Because I can’t. First of all, I’m horrible at lying – like catch-me-every-time bad. I think I’ve been gifted with Pinocchio’s proverbial nose for lying. And secondly, people should be held accountable for what they say. As much as society decrees to ‘just be honest,’ the sword of truth has a sharp double edge.
If you don’t really want to know how I’m doing, then don’t ask – because I’ll tell you. I have learned to employ a filter, but my warning system is apparently flawed because not many ‘get it.’ Here’s a typical scenario of those superficial greetings that take place every day:
“Hey, Lisa. How’re you today?”
Shrug. “Meh, I’ve had better days. How about you?”
And this right here is a turning point. I’ve been honest, but recognizing that this person doesn’t want all the dirty details and is more likely using a social custom that really means ‘Hello,’ I spare them the details. Why can’t ‘Hello’ stand on its own without tacking on meaningless pleasantries? *shakes head*
“Oh, what’s wrong?”
Ah – see, there it is. Fair warning has been delivered. They asked. The wide-eyed stare and feeble apology for a quick exit isn’t necessary. If you really didn’t want to know what’s bothering me, then why ask?
And my return response is quite genuine. I can handle listening to someone’s personal woe. I’m not one gifted with empathy however, so don’t take offense if my response is simply – ‘Wow, that sucks’ or ‘Oh, well let me know how that turns out.’ I really do mean it. If I wasn’t prepared for the honest answer, I would’ve just responded with a simple ‘Hello’ back.
And before you dismiss me as a socially-awkward Sheldon, I’m not rude or insensitive – not purposely. I struggle with the appropriate social custom in certain situations, but I’m alone a lot and I like it that way. My ability (or impairment depending on your point of view) to separate myself from everyone else’s problems allows me to interview drug addicts who share about abusing women, getting high, and hearing first person accounts of beatings and family heartbreak. I interviewed a man who had spent more time in jail than out and had worked for the mafia as an enforcer, break down in tears sharing about the daughter he hadn’t seen in 7 years. I’ve listened to how Oxycontin ‘grabs you by the short and curlies,’ failed suicide attempts, and heartbroken parents. I’ve interviewed prostitutes, drug dealers, humanitarian workers, and missionaries – and every one of them carried tremendous burdens that haunted their waking hours.
It’s life. And life is messy. And people are broken.
Everyone is broken by something whether they were bullied, abandoned, abused, neglected, overlooked, fell short, struggled to overcome an obstacle, or made choices that left them facing tough consequences (this list isn’t exhaustive). In being honest, I like to think I give them freedom to be honest right back, and to be broken – but mending.
But to be honest requires one to really know themselves, and be comfortable in their own skin – which is an ongoing introspective journey that’s never easy.
What do you think? Is honesty the best policy? Ever wished someone was more or less honest with you?