Is Honesty Always the Best Policy?
Our initial reaction is to say yes. Of course, we should always be honest. For most situations, this is true. However, there are times in our lives when prickly situations crop up and just laying down honesty becomes slightly more complex. I’m sure you all, dear readers, know what I’m talking about. So, pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, and let’s mull this one over together.
Please understand me. I am not advocating lying. Lying is never correct. Nor am I advocating avoidance, which never heals anything. However, if you’re in the middle of a situation where someone has hurt you and you’re nursing a wound, honesty at that time might be spoken from an unsettled place, a place where anger or vengeance is the motivation. In times like that, it is best to take a step back, give yourself some space to process the myriad of emotions assaulting you, and let yourself calm down. Sometimes you need a day or two; other times you need longer. Give yourself that time because what you really want is to have clarity before you proceed.
And once you’ve given yourself the time to analyze and understand yourself more fully, follow this simple advice.
Before You Speak, Ask Yourself:
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?
Is it true?
Does it improve the silence?
These four questions can be summed up in the proverbial wisdom:
Speak the truth in love.
The word love here is from the Greek word agapé. Woven into the fabric of the word agapé is this understanding of love:
It is the highest form of love. That is why it is referred to as the godlike love, or the love God has for his people. It is an intense affection that must be demonstrated. Agapé love is loyal, endless, and has an unconditional commitment to love. It is not an emotional response, but rather a decision , an unwavering decision to be committed to love.
And how many of you know that the decision to love someone, especially when they’ve been ugly, hurtful, or insensitive to you, is a very hard one to make.
Speaking the truth, being honest, in those circumstances is difficult and uncomfortable. Mostly because it will require confrontation. And, when we think of confrontation, we don’t necessarily associate it with love or kindness.
Yet, I submit to you that when you intensely love someone and you’ve committed to show that person love through thick or thin, there will be times when the demonstration of that love will be tough.
The Greek word for kind is chresteuomai. It means to be able to adapt yourself to the needs of others. With this understanding, being kind means you have a willingness to stretch yourself to serve the needs of someone else. This sort of kindness is the exact opposite of self-centeredness.
Parents know this truth, perhaps more deeply than anyone else. The love they possess for their child is as close to agapé that we’ll see this side of heaven. Yet, there will be times during parenting when kindness will show itself in discipline and correction.
To discipline someone, to correct their behavior when it’s leading down a worrisome and potentially destructive road may make the person receiving the correction think that you’re being mean. But, the reality is, you love them more deeply than they may know.
This question is why you should take some time to analyze yourself before you say anything. Sometimes a friend, coworker, relative, or acquaintance can say something to you that gets your goat in the moment, but after a few hours or a day or two, you realize that it’s really small potatoes and not worth your time. However, if what happened or what was said keeps coming back to you, upsetting you, unsettling your spirit, chances are it will be necessary to address it.
Being truly circumspect means that when you’ve given yourself the time to wade through your emotions and feelings, you’re able to honestly assess what happened. That means, put yourself and your actions before your eyes and honestly look at them. Are you remembering the events or conversation correctly? If honesty is the best policy, remember, it must start with you. Have a heart to heart with yourself.
I think this is my favorite question of the four because it’s the most interesting. If you’re like me, you want to avoid confrontation. One of the surest ways to avoid confrontation is to say nothing. To be silent. However, how many of you know that silence can allow things to fester. You end up rehearsing hurts and offenses because you’re brooding. This only compiles the unease in your relationship. In those cases, silence is certainly not golden. You’re going to need to say something.
However, if you’ve truly taken the first three questions into account, by the time you reach the fourth, you should be honest enough with yourself to be able to approach the situation walking in love.
When it comes down to honesty being the best policy, it’s important that you check the intention of your heart. Really check it. Are you speaking the truth because you are moved by an offense? Or the need to be right? Or because you’re deeply hurt? If you are motivated by any one of those, you’re not acting in kindness because to be kind is to be selfless and taking offense, needing to be right, or lashing out from your place of hurt all make it about you.
Or are you speaking the truth with the intention to cleanse a wound and bind it up properly so that it can really heal? You want this to be the intention of your heart when you address anything difficult with honesty. Cleaning wounds is sometimes a really gross process. It’s messy. Sometimes it takes a lot of time for it to heal. And sometimes, the person your confronting, the person you’ve chose to love deeply and care about doesn’t want to have the wound cleaned. They will take offense at the truth you’re bringing and refuse to even entertain the idea that you could be approaching them in love. Often this is because they don’t want to take the time to be really honest with themselves.
When that happens, as it will for all of us, know that you’ve done all you can do. It doesn’t mean you stop loving that person, but it does mean they are choosing a path for their life that may not include you. That’s okay. Hard, yes, but okay. Wish them the best with all your heart, and leave the door open for them. I believe in my heart of hearts that when truth is spoken, it will root. Sometimes, like with bamboo, the roots may take a long time to form and you won’t see any outward showing of all the work going on underground. But then, suddenly, there’s a forest of bamboo growing swiftly. Love the person enough to give them the time and space they need. And always hope for that bamboo forest.
When it comes to confronting a difficult situation with a friend or relative, what advise do you try to follow?