Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Honesty vs. Openness

Honesty is really a funny thing. Certainly we hope to be completely honest and upright in our dealings with others, but undeniably that's pretty difficult. Sometimes there's what seems to be good reason to keep things to ourselves or to spin the truth a little bit or tell a little fib. I suppose that can be somewhat of a grey area, at least it seems like it. It seems harmless enough that it's hard to tell if it's necessarily wrong. Plus there's the issue of whether or not a lie might actually be in somebody's best interest. Withholding information from someone undeniably might make things better for them, in the short run at least. Ignorance really can be bliss.

I guess that's where things are really funny for me. One of my best friends told me that I "tell it like it is." I'm undeniably very opinionated. With that, I have developed a strong personality and so I'm not afraid to make my thoughts known. Unfortunately that does start to remove some of my tact. Now I wouldn't say I'm not a tactful person, but I could be a little more thoughtful with my honesty sometimes. There's always a better, kinder way to say everything. I guess the danger there is it may not convey the idea quite right and ameliorating any thought will make it seem more light. Sometimes people really do need to understand the actual weight of what your saying. But I must say, I'm sure I venture far past that. If anything I probably would be better off to error to caution and be more tactful. I think I do have a pleasant enough demeanor and am well intentioned enough that most of the time my strong words are taken in the best way possible, but it doesn't necessarily make it okay.

I ran into a similar issue with that recently. I was speaking to a friend and I'm certain I was way too upfront and honest about circumstances. I'd rather not go into all of the messy details because that's really not my place, but frankly I can't deny that I was far too overbearing and quite the jerk for a lot of what I said. I expressed a lot of thoughts and ideas relative to what we were speaking about that didn't need to be brought up and really were harmful. So it was an obvious overstepping of my bounds. So I guess that's the big question, when is it appropriate to be completely open?

This reminds me of the movie Liar, Liar. In case you're not familiar with the premise, Jim Carrey plays a lawyer that lies constantly. His son becomes frustrated with his lying and wishes that his father cannot lie anymore. So his son's wish is granted and Jim Carrey cannot lie anymore. Now the thing that I always picked on about the movie, Carrey's character could not keep his mouth closed. He felt like he had to make comments about anything and everything. It was kind of ridiculous because there were plenty of times he could have said less or kept his mouth shut or whatever else and not gotten himself into the trouble he did. Now I can't deny that that did help to add to the comedic value of the movie, but it did seem a bit ridiculous. Kind of funny though, now I liken myself to that. I'm the person who feels like they need to make ridiculous, needless comments that really are not as kind as they should be. I think that shows me that honesty and openness are not exactly the same thing.

So therein lies the question. How do we reconcile the difference between honesty and openness? I can't deny that sometimes we owe it some people to be open with them. In circumstances with friends we often have this kind of issue. But at the same time, it's not like you should always answer questions like "What do you honestly think about me?" With complete openness. There's a time and a place for that and it does depend on the context of your conversation and your relationship with the individual. But what's better? Where does this line exist of how much openness is right versus just "honesty"? I'm not sure it's lying to not be completely open, but there can be plenty of occasions where that idea can become a little blurry. So we have to figure this out and weigh the circumstances closely in order to come to a good conclusion.

"O be wise; what can I say more?" - Jacob 6:12

P.S. I just found this quote that I had to attach as a final note to this.
"Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy." - Isaac Newton

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