The value of honesty

Most people want honesty. They value honesty from others, and disdain falsehoods. Yet I find that people (and I’m speaking largely about Americans, because that is where my experiences lie) are willingly honest as long as they don’t have to deal with the effects of the honesty. Sure they’ll be honest, even to the point of actually being biting and mean, if they don’t have to see who they are hurting. This often happens on the internet, though people often take it way too far and it stops being honesty and starts just being bitchiness.

There is a difference between honesty and rudeness. There is such a thing as tact. However, when faced with an opportunity to present an honest, valid opinion, I think the opportunity should always be taken. The most common example I can think of is when I’m going shopping and I’ll ask someone for their opinion. My mother and my best friend are the most honest people I’ve found and I am grateful for that. They’ll tell me if they think something is too tight, doesn’t look good, isn’t the right color, whatever. Most of the time if I’m shopping with other friends, or I ask a stranger in the dressing room, they’ll just tell me that I look good. Then I go home, and try it on again and it just doesn’t look as good outside of the dressing room. I wish someone would tell me that. I wish they would tell me that my boobs are too big for the shirt, that my butt looks kind of misshapen in that dress, etc. I could have saved the money and the self-esteem.

That example is somewhat inane though. A better example would be from a few years ago. I was in a three and a half-year relationship with someone, and towards the end we were both miserable. I lied to myself, as people are wont to do. I told myself that I was happy, that our love would make it work, that we were perfect for each other. I wish someone had sat me down, gave me a proverbial (or real) slap in the face, and told me to actually look at the relationship. It would have hurt, but I would have been better for it. Instead, my friends saw me being miserable, and let me keep telling them that I was happy.

It’s often uncomfortable to tell the truth, but I think it is necessary. I think people do each other a disservice by lying for the sake of feelings. I don’t think it’s respectful to lie about who a person is in the name of respect. If a person is incredibly selfish,  one should tell them to their face. If they don’t like it, they should suck it up and learn to accept the truth about themselves. I used to have a friend who was incredibly selfish. She wanted everyone to care about what she wanted, though she often didn’t care about what anyone else wanted. A few years into our friendship, I tried to help her out with something and she flipped out at me. She accused me of not caring about her, stealing from her, the whole shebang. I had always known she was very self-centered, but I had never said anything for fear of hurting her feelings. Now I can’t help but wish I had just told her to her face on one of the many occasions that she belittled what I wanted because it didn’t agree with what she wanted.

This is an example-heavy post, so I’m going to give one that is near and dear to my heart. My father died two years ago, and I get very annoyed when people misrepresent the person that he was in the name of respect. He was an amazing person, and I love him with everything I have. Nevertheless, he was far from perfect. He had many problems, and I think it’s better to acknowledge them than to avoid them. How is anyone respecting him by changing their memory of him? How am I supposed to listen to someone who refuses to even think about his bad qualities? He could be an asshole sometimes. He could be frustrating, rude, and painfully honest. He was also wonderful, loving, and caring. He would do anything for his family and friends. In fact, he always went the extra mile for just about anyone. That’s the kind of person he was. When he was frustrating, it was because he believed what he was saying and he wouldn’t let emotions get in the way of that. Sure, sometimes I wanted to slap him. Now I will be forever thankful for the lessons he taught me. I love my father and I will never stop, and for that I will honor his memory by following in his example. Everyone has bad qualities, that doesn’t make them bad people. Acknowledging those bad qualities is what makes a person human in our eyes. Perfect people are perfectly boring.

I recently started watching Bones. The main character, Dr. Temperance Brennan, is incredibly socially awkward and just says what she thinks without always considering how it might affect other people. She is honest and open, because she doesn’t know how to be otherwise. So I will end this post with a scene from Bones. My points are often wordy, but good tv makes the same points concisely. In the scene, Brennan and FBI agent Seeley Booth are talking to a dwarf from the state department.

RADSWELL: All we ask at the State Department is that you treat this woman with the respect she is due as a friend of this country.

BOOTH: I know how to question the witness.

RADSWELL: I am here at the request of the Colombian ambassador, Judge Ramos and the State Department.

BRENNAN: Well, that’s disingenuous. What are the chances that all three would ask you separately? (places hands on her hip)

RADSWELL: Why are you being so confrontational?

BRENNAN: You’re used to people deferring to you because of your size. It’s a normal response that you take advantage of. I don’t like it.

BOOTH: Here we go.

BRENNAN: Well, see? (to Booth) Even you don’t want to say anything to hurt his tiny feelings. (to Radswell) I don’t mean that your feelings are tiny, I mean that you have feelings about being tiny.

RADSWELL: The ramifications and repercussions of impeded access will compromise accommodative responses detrimental to your unabated participation in our shared endeavours.

(Confused look on Brennan’s face.)

BOOTH: That’s State Department speak. We don’t do it his way, we’ll get fired.

BRENNAN: See? If a regular-sized person tried to intimidate you, you’d threaten to kick him through the window. But because in his case it’s an actual physical possibility—


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