Until recently, I prided myself on being honest. I loved that people felt like they could come to me for straight-forward answers. Unfortunately, what I didn’t see was that sometimes it’s best to keep my mouth shut or, heaven forbid, just say something kind despite the overwhelming desire to shout out the facts.
When I think back to the things I’ve said in the name of “honesty,” I am horrified! I was going to write some things down that have ushered forth from my mouth, but you would all unfriend me. My response when people’s eyes would bug out of their heads was, “What?! It’s the truth!” Yeesh. I got myself into a lot of trouble and hurt lots of feelings, I’m sure.
The realization I had that gave me pause was that honesty without compassion can be downright mean-spirited. Yes, someone may have recently sprouted a crop of new gray hair, but I am sure that they are already aware. Sure, adolescence makes your nose grow, but is it necessary to point that out to an already self-conscious teenager? Alas, your spouse may have put on a few pounds, but chances are he is already down on himself about it.
In fact, I get so much more out of being complimentary and reassuring. Saying to a woman who just found out she’s expecting her 4th child, “You’re gonna do great! I just know it!” is so much more effective than saying, “Dude, this is crazy hard.” Or telling a very pregnant woman who feels bloated and fat how beautiful she looks does wonders compared to saying, “Oh, you look like you’re gonna pop!” Yes, parenting is hard and maybe she does look uncomfortable, but we are all here to reach out to others, build each other up, encourage one another.
The reason I finally learned to be kind with my words no matter what is that honesty without compassion can be downright mean-spirited. And that’s the truth!