How honest are you? I mean, really. Do you ever use falsehoods to cover up mistakes and oversights? Maybe you tell those little fibs that “Can’t hurt anyone?” I know I have been guilty of defaulting to untruths to expedite communication. But is that really the best way to build connection or to create boundaries? I doubt it.
What I do NOT mean
Wait! Before we all climb up on our soapboxes of truth telling, let me explain what I do NOT mean.
First, I’m not suggesting you tell everyone all your business. Actually, don’t. Remember, one way to be truthful is to say, “That’s not something I care to discuss.” or “My answer is complicated and I prefer to keep those details to myself.”
Secondly, I don’t think we need to be Simon Cowell knock-offs. Simon Cowell, creator of the X-factor shows and the American (or any other nationality) Idol franchise, used to be infamous for truth telling. Cowell would pronounce his judgment on the act, starting with, “Can I be honest?” or “If I’m being honest…” and end it with “I’m just being honest.” It always irked me that performers would salivate for his approval as if his opinion was somehow more valuable than other experts in the field. Cowell was honestly stating his opinion which he routinely confused with absolute fact. But that’s not being truthful, that’s being arrogant. Good news for those who audition in front of Cowell now; when he became a dad, he became infinitely more kind and tactful.
What I REALLY do not mean
Finally, I do not mean “Telling the truth in love.” Don’t do that. Seriously, “Telling the truth in love,” is usually what we say to assuage our guilt for skipping the love part altogether. I mean think about it. Have you ever delivered your so-called message of love and had the person respond, “Aww thank you! I feel so loved now?” Of course not. That’s because what we are doing is pronouncing indictments regarding behavior that makes us uncomfortable. These confrontations are rarely, if ever, considered loving.
For example, I don’t get ear gauges. I don’t care for how they look, and I suspect gauged ears will cause their hosts regret later in life.
I might feel the need to share this wisdom like this.
Me: I need to tell you something.
Person I Know Well Enough To Say This To: Okay. . . ?
Me: You know I love you; this is just me telling you the truth in love.
Person IKWETSTT: (blank stare)
Me: Those gauges are not attractive and actually are the opposite of appealing. You’re going to regret those one day.
Person IKWETSTT: Um. . . ?
My comments here are opinion, not truth. Gauges, much to my surprise, are not considered to be unflattering by everyone in the world. Plus, I don’t know whether Person IKWETSTT will regret this decision or not. I can’t see into the future.
“Telling the truth in love,” is often a synonym for “Saying what I think regardless of how it makes you feel.” Let’s stop that.
Big little lies
What I do mean is that we lie a lot. In the world of near constant communication, there are endless opportunities for misdirection and almost-truths.
We say things like . . .
- I emailed you! You didn’t get it?
- You should have gotten that by now–stupid USPS.
- I never speed.
- Traffic! Sorry I’m late.
- I’ve been having problems with my wifi.
- I don’t have time!
And look, this habit isn’t the worst thing in the world. I just think this is really a form of self-criticism. We feel shame for our shortfalls and we lie to cover up the truth. What if we offered ourselves some compassion, admitted that we are imperfect, and agree that that is okay.
Self-Compassionate little truths
We could say things like . . .
- I will email you right now. That slipped my mind. Thanks for your patience.
- I wanted to get that in the mail earlier, but it didn’t work out that way. Hopefully you’ll receive it soon.
- I have never (rarely, seldom) gotten speeding tickets.
- I didn’t allow time for traffic. Thanks for understanding.
- I wish I could blame this on my wifi; unfortunately this is all operator error.
- I am not making that a priority now.
Everyone has made these kind of mistakes. We all get it. So let’s quit masquerading as automatons who never slip up due to our own failings. Let’s honestly embrace the beauty of brokenness in ourselves and others. That’s authenticity. And that’s love.