Honesty and Friendship: A Good Combination?

Should you always be honest with your friends?

Should you always be honest with your friends?

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?

Written by Rob Graumans

3 thoughts on “Honesty and Friendship: A Good Combination?

  1. Pingback: Financial Markets: Keeping up the Illusion of Confidence | The Young Socrates

  2. My friend is the type of person who loves people that she likes, but does next to nothing to care for herself . She basically thinks she is worthless. I have spent days, probably going over with her ways to love herself,read articles, healthy eating plans, and so much more to just convince her she is worth it. But, if she tries to get into my head and try to help me, I resent her for it because she would never take that advice for herself or have those same insights to help herself. So, yesterday, as she was wondering why I was resisting revealing my innermost feelings, I told her it’s because I don’t respect her advice because she would not do the same for herself. I just feel awful for telling her the truth of how I feel. I meant it. I told her not to take it personally because I tend to listen to people that are walking their talk. I strive to do that in my life and only tend to share things I am living out. I feel like it validated her feeling worthless. My husband said I was being a good friend. Your article made me feel a little better about it. Thanks!!

    • Dear Lori,

      Well, it’s great that you have been honest with your friend, right? Isn’t it your duty as a friend to try and help your friend, even if that means saying something that she might not initially like? Assuming that your friend wants to become a happier person, then how can she achieve this goal if she doesn’t know where to improve upon? Hence it’s good that you said it.

      I understand that you might feel bad, because her initial response might not be happiness, while that is what you want for her. But I am quite sure that she will understand what you mean and appreciate it, because she is your friend and she knows that you want the best for her, and that’s why you are saying it.

      It might even be an eye opener for her: assuming that she wants you take to take up her advice in order to make you happier, she might now come to see that the same goes the other way. Then she might come to realize that you actually love her as much as she loves you, because you do (helping your friend) what she would have done in the same situation. An extra reason for her to take up your advice.

      I wish you the best :), and thanks for your message

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