Have you ever said something harsh or judgmental to another person and then, upon seeing their hurt or anger, quickly retreated behind the free pass of just being honest? I’m pretty sure most people have and it’s a sticky spot to be in. On one hand, we are told that honesty is the best policy but on the other, we also know that if we don’t have anything nice to say then we shouldn’t say anything at all.
Between these two conflicting adages is a middle ground of the social responsibility to be kind without lying. We shouldn’t have to hide or deny our values, ethics or concerns just so we don’t upset another person. But how important is it that your friend knows you think her makeup skills make her look like a second rate drag queen? What outcome are you seeking in giving a voice to this catty opinion?
The only person with whom complete honesty is the best policy is ourselves. In doing so we save ourselves and others a lot of unnecessary pain. This means questioning our reactions to other people until we have had time to wade through the swamp of feelings, past experiences and their present day biases, and our true intentions so that our words and actions can be thoughtful, kind and genuine.
Consider the following updated and non-contradicting proverbs to guide a more authentic existence: Seek the kindest option and Don’t bullshit yourself.