How Are You Honest?
Jill was demoralized and confused. She said that her boyfriend, Dave, often said hurtful things to her, and when she called him on it he responded by saying, “Well, you want me to be honest, don’t you?”
Jill said that when they began their relationship they agreed to be honest with each other. She wanted to do that to insure there would be no big secrets that got in the way. Because of this agreement she was confused about her reaction when Dave was ‘honest’.
I asked her for an example of his comments. She said he often made hurtful remarks about how she looked or dressed, saying, “I can’t believe you’re going to wear that”, or “Your hair is so awful, can’t you do something with it?” When she got upset he’d say, “I’m just telling you the truth. Isn’t that what we agreed to do?”
Total Honesty and Brutal Honesty
Jill and I spent some time looking at the fact that defining what is true often involves individual perception, and that there are as many different perceptions as there are people. The way Dave perceived things and the way Jill did were often different, so when he was ‘being honest’ he was really stating things from his perspective, with which she might or might not agree.
We then looked at the difference between Total Honesty and Brutal Honesty. The most important thing in being honest is the intent. When someone is Totally Honest with you, their intent will be loving and respectful, and they will phrase things in a tactful, gentle and supportive way.
If Dave’s intention was to be caring and supportive, he could have easily said, “Since the invitation said ‘formal wear’ I’m wondering if a different dress might be more appropriate for this occasion.” Or, “You have such a lovely face, and that hairstyle hides it.”
When someone is Brutally Honest, the intent is to assert power and use ‘honesty’ as a weapon to gain control. Brutal Honesty is cruel, disrespectful, hurtful and destructive.
Dave was being Brutally Honest, which was abusive, and Jill’s reactions to his comments were appropriate. She felt attacked, yet wasn’t able to defend against his assertion that he was ‘just being honest.’
Once Jill understood that she wanted honesty that was supportive and loving, she decided to no longer let Dave’s assertion that he was just “being honest” justify his hurtful comments. She made the decision to talk with him about being supportive instead of abusive. His response to this conversation would tell her a lot about the future of their relationship.
So, I’m wondering how you and the people around you are honest. Are you supportive and respectful, or hurtful and cruel?
It’s something to think about.
Please comment so others can benefit from your wisdom and experience.
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