I have to make a confession: I am not always completely honest with the people I talk to. And not only with random people I meet at birthday parties; even with my very own friends. But let’s be truly honest: that’s not shocking, is it? Not because I am such a jerk, but because no-one is always completely honest with his friends, right? A more interesting question would be: should you always be honest with your friends? Being honest might hurt your friend’s feelings, so maybe you should rather lie and keep you and your friend happy, than telling him the ‘painful’ truth, right? Or would that prevent you in some way from bonding – with your friend – on a deeper level? A ‘friend’ level? Or maybe the entire dichotomy – between kindness on the one hand and honesty one the other – is just completely wrong: who says that honesty and kindness cannot go hand in hand? After all, isn’t being honest always a kind gesture, even though the content of this gesture might not always be flattering? Let’s take a look at that.
I am sure you know the dilemma: should you tell your friend the not-so-positive truth or should you lie in order not to cause a stir? Of course you should tell him, you might think. After all, what is the value of friendship without honesty? Isn’t that where friends are for, to be honest with each other, no matter what? No matter how tough the message might be, someone should tell you the truth. And this someone should be your friend, right? But then, after having thought through the consequences of being honest, you might start to think differently: ‘I don’t want to be rude to him. Maybe he’ll think that I am not respecting him. Maybe he’ll avoid me in the future. Maybe I will lose him as a friend.’
We human beings are afraid to be honest. We are afraid that people – including our friends – might not want to hear us say negative things about them, even though these negative things might be said with the best intentions. Friendships are valuable to us; so valuable, that we don’t want to risk losing them. But what if you had to choose between (1) your friends being always honest with you (but not necessarily positive) or (2) your friends always being positive (but not necessarily honest with you)? And, more importantly, what category of friends would you consider to be ‘better’ friends? Not the first category, right? Not those superficial and cowardly creatures. No. A true friend should be willing to tell you the truth, no matter what. That is what true friendship consists of.
But that implies that you should also accept the comments of your friend. That you should be grateful for him having the courage to tell you what he thinks. You would have to show him that he is a true friend to you and that he is valued for being honest with you. Don’t criticize your friend’s comments. See them as a sign of true friendship. And, on the other side, interpret flattery for what it really is: a mask to hide feelings of insecurity and neediness.
To end on a personal note: I believe that you should always be able to tell your friends the truth. And if it turns out that they cannot handle the truth, then you probably weren’t true friends in the first place, right? On the other hand, we all want to be happy and sometimes hearing the truth might make us sad. After all, how happy would we be if everyone around us, including our friends, would constantly share their negative – but true – conceptions of us? Nonetheless, we must grow up and dare to face the storm of well-intended criticism. Because you will never be able to improve if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong.
But what do you think?