Saturday, March 8, 2008


Honesty is a curious thing. If lying by omission is still a lie then nearly every conversation could be considered dishonest. It is impossible to relate every single individual detail of every day to anyone in order to avoid lying by excluding truths, which is why I believe that in most cases when someone says, “I just want you to be honest with me,” what they really want is for you to be direct.

Lately I’ve found and unexpected virtue in directness. Being an extremely non-confrontational person, I avoid conflict at almost any and all costs. I hate being the one to call people out on things and it has gotten me in to trouble more than once. Because I value maintaining the relationship above being assertive about a problem, I often end up making all sorts of excuses for other people’s behavior in order not to sound condescending or angry. The problem is that no relationship can realistically be maintained without addressing conflicts or saying what we think at some point. Getting too caught up in sugar-coating your opinions or the facts about a situation forces you to do a lot of back-peddling when you finally decide to be direct. I’ve been increasingly reassured that as I approach things directly it never seems to produce the disastrous effects I imagined. Thus far it hasn’t resulted in the destruction of friendships but rather the swiftest resolves I’ve ever experienced. It is hard to explain how difficult it is for me to be direct or why, but I’m beginning to see it as one of the most valuable interpersonal skills I’ve ever intentionally developed. Because speaking the truth absolutely is an acquired skill. Well, maybe not for some people. But speaking the truth in love, I am certain is not a mechanism that anyone was born skilled with. Employing the cold hardness of truth and the warm attentiveness of love seems so difficult and conflicting. So are these two factors mutually exclusive? I would say not. But there is great difficulty balancing them all the same. There are those who find no trouble telling the truth about their thoughts, but they are far from doing so with love. I find, as may be guessed from how I’ve described myself above, that my difficulty lies in the opposite that I know only how to apply love and not truth. The reality is that we cannot depend upon sweet and encouraging words to make corrections. I find my few reproaches I have the nerve to give are shockingly ineffective because I vaguely refer to the problem at hand then lather it all up with gentile encouragements and compliments and the purpose is never served. We must train our lips to be just and kind.

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