I read an article titled “What if Your Best Friends Are Your Worst Enemies?” on WebMD recently that really got me thinking. I hope that you will take the time to read the article as it is very well written and thought provoking, but since there is a fairly high probability that you won’t, the gist of the article is that women are rarely willing to tell each other the truth for fear of being rejected. Before you react too strongly to my posting this on the grounds that it is sexist, bear in mind that the author is female. I will make no claim that men are above this behavior, but it has been my experience that men are much less concerned with hurt feelings when expressing an opinion which makes them somewhat less prone, but by no means immune, to this behavior. Therefore, the reason I am posting this is to discuss telling the truth in general, regardless of gender.
Truth is a curious thing. Few people will deny it’s value and will often even site the importance of being an “honest” person. In fact, there are many “old sayings” about the wisdom of telling the truth, such as “honesty is the best policy”, “when in doubt, tell the truth”, and “oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”. There is even an “old saying” that equates honesty with being a true friend: “Real friends tell the truth.”
In reality, however, few of us are in the habit of being very honest. It’s SO much easier to simply avoid the awkward inconvenience of having to burst someone’s self delusions. In the words of Patrick Sky “Reality is bad enough. Why should I tell the truth?” Of course, the main reason why telling the truth is SO difficult is because most of us SO loath to hear the truth about ourselves and will, all too often, react quite negatively toward anyone that dares to burst the carefully constructed fictions we have woven around ourselves like a cocoon. I have personally been both the perpetrator and victim of that treatment. The fact that I would behave in such a shallow fashion, either to tell a convenient lie or to punish someone for telling me an inconvenient truth, is something of which I am not at all proud. Indeed, there are few things about which I am so ashamed.
I have always tried to be someone that told the truth, and yet I have caught myself with alarming frequency telling only a partial truth in an effort to avoid hurting the feelings of another. Don’t get me wrong, I am not in favor of brutal honesty and do believe that there are indeed times when the truth can too easily be used as a bludgeon. Too often indeed have I seen cruelty masked as “being honest”. In fact, in a case where I truly believed that a totally honest answer might instead be received as an act of cruelty, I would indeed choose to either not answer or to answer with a question. After all, any person that asks a question that starts with the phrase, “Be honest with me…”, usually already knows the answer deep down. In fact, they are usually hoping you will answer in a way that reinforces the fantasy they have created in their own mind in order to avoid having to deal with the truth.
The fascinating thing about this tendency of hiding from the truth is that the stress we put ourselves under to construct and maintain our “protective” fantasies and the flat out damage we do to ourselves in not dealing with reality would seem to make it obvious that the best thing to do would be to simply drop the pretense and just “deal with it”. How tragic that by attempting to hide from our own reality, we inevitably end up being trapped in our own jaundiced farce while practically everyone close to us is painfully aware of the truths we are convinced have remained hidden.
Indeed, it takes a lot of courage to be honest, both with yourself and with others. I am convinced that this is exactly why Yeshua stated that “the Truth shall set you free.” He refused to coddle our fantasies and challenged us to embrace the Truth, knowing full well that only by acknowledging the reality of our own truth, the good and the bad, would we EVER be free to humbly speak truth to others. It takes a LOT of courage, but without a doubt, living free is more than worth it.
I have only had a very few friends over my lifetime that I would classify as being “honest” with me, and I can sincerely state that I truly appreciate their honesty. I may not have always liked what that had to say, but they always made it abundantly clear that they were speaking truth as best they could in humility and without judgment. That, I truly believe, is the key to being able to speak the truth.
A humble person wont try to make you feel inferior. They will strive to tell you only the truth they know and will quickly admit what they don’t. By being aware of their own limitations, they are not tempted to judge you for yours. This ability to speak the truth in a spirit of unconditional love and acceptance is exactly what I think Yeshua was calling us to do.
The challenge is to learn to be that rarest of commodities: an honest friend.