The New Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “honesty” as such: ” 1: free from deception : truthful ; also: GENUINE, REAL 2: Reputable 3: Creditable 4: marked by integrity 5: Frank syn: upright, just, conscientious, honorable.”
I once saw a therapist when I was in my 20’s. It was shortly after my fibromyalgia diagnosis. She was very good at her profession. One day, she asked me to complete some sort of psychological test (can’t recall the name of it) and so I complied. Afterwards, she said this to me: “You are disgustingly honest.” (she was laughing when she said it) I laughed along with her and said, I know it! And I can’t help it! LOL
To me, being honest is not only important, but a part of who I am as a person. I was raised by a woman who was always honest with me and I guess it just became a part of me as well. Being anything less than honest is extremely uncomfortable to me, to say the least, and to me, being honest is the way I want to live my life.
But along the way, there are times when being brutally honest with someone might not necessarily be the best way. Sometimes knowing when to keep your mouth shut is the wise way. Honesty is a wonderful thing, but tact is also extremely important when dealing with another person.
Some people do not understand the concept of tact. They just blurt out “the truth” as they see it, without any regard to the feelings of the person they are speaking to. While honesty is ultimately being “real” and telling it like it is….we always need to consider whether speaking honestly will do more damage than good in the long run.
If there is no other way around being honest with someone, for their own good or the good of someone else….we must be tactful and fully aware of how our words can affect them.
If we need to confront someone about an issue, we should always take the time to consider how to approach the other person. If we value that person and care about their feelings, we must use tact and speak with care.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the moment, when we feel the need to speak out about something important to us, or to try to correct what we see as some “wrong”, and just blurt out what we feel is the truth and then later realize that we have just destroyed a valued relationship, or forever damaged someone else’s feelings. By then, it is too late to repair or restore that person’s feelings. You can never take back hurtful words, even if they are honest words. It’s all in how we say things. It’s all in how we convey the honest truth.
Sometimes, what we “think” is the truth, may not necessarily be the complete truth. We may only “perceive” something as the truth….from the view of our limited understanding. We may not have all the facts, or know the entire truth of a situation. If we do not have all the information, it just makes sense that we should not speak out until we do.
Many times, I have been tempted to speak out on certain occasions about things that affect a person I know. There are so many things that I see that do not add up, and many things that I consider to be wrong. The way the person speaks about their life, and the way that person lives seem to me to be a conflicted situation. So often I have wanted to confront this person and point out these seemingly irreconcilable issues….yet I always have to reign in my words because I know that to speak my feelings and my views regarding their life would not only damage our relationship but damage that person irrefutably. To me it is not worth the collateral damage to speak out regarding what I feel are inconsistencies in this person’s life. So I choose to just keep my big trap shut. Until I can find a way to convey my observations in a less destructive way. It’s not easy to sit by and watch these things unfold, but I know the incredibly destructive power of words, and I do not want to be responsible for the outcome of what my words could do.
Although it can be very uncomfortable to just keep quiet and not give your opinion about certain things you see…if you value relationships with people above “being right” about something, you may choose to wait until you can figure out how to approach the subject in a more peaceful way.
Of course, there are times when you see something happening that requires you to take a stand immediately without question. If you see abuse, or a crime, or something of that nature….of course you must be brave and step in without regard to anything other than doing the right thing. You need to rely on your instincts at all times. If you witness abuse you have to do something. Now. But if it’s something that is not of immediate consequence, then we must take some deep breaths and decide what the best plan of action is without doing even more damage.
It’s a difficult thing, knowing when and how to approach a touchy subject with another person. It can be extremely sensitive for both parties. Even though I sometimes react to things without thinking first…I try hard to not impulsively speak out before considering what I am about to say and how it may affect everyone involved. This is very hard to do when you feel strongly about something or have the urge to say how you really feel before thinking about your words.
The best way to deal with this sort of thing is to just put yourself in the other person’s shoes for a few minutes. Consider how you would feel if someone spoke to you the way you would be speaking to them. Would it hurt you? Would it damage your relationship with that other person? If so, stop….think….take a few breaths….and then decide how to proceed. You should try to never react in the heat of the moment. Rarely in that situation, can things ever be settled in a positive manner.
Step back and breathe. And try to work things out peacefully and rationally if you can. In the long run, that’s the best way.