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23 August 2011 @ 11:10 am
Keepin' it real  

There's a tweetmeme going on right now:  "#NeverApologizeFor".  I took a look at the various things that the peoples of the Twitterverse think one should never apologize for.

Topping the list (after my brief and by no means comprehensive scan) was "being honest".  One of them has been retweeted a few times:  "#NeverApologizeFor being honest. That's like apologizing for being real."

Where on earth did all this emphasis on honesty come from?  I was always taught to tell the truth.  Not to be honest.

Truth:  the objective facts about a situation

Honesty:  stating everything as you see it in that moment, including your feelings, random thoughts, and immediate reactions

Absolute truth is essential; without it, you have corruption and breakdown of trust, unreliable systems, unsafe society, tricks and lies and cheating and betrayal, buildings that fall, marriages that fail.  Without a true representation of the facts, you're flying blind.  Now, it's always impossible to know all of the facts of a situation or a person, and you won't always be able to get people to listen, but the truth is worth your best effort -- both finding it and disseminating it.  The truth takes courage, is very difficult to find and hold onto, and will often hurt.  The truth is valuable enough to merit those costs.

Absolute honesty is stupid, hurtful, and irresponsible.  Opinions and feelings and impressions are fleeting, unreliable things; subject to mood, health, personality, experiences that others don't share, desires that other's don't have.  Opinions aren't true.  And no, they aren't real, either.  The way you feel about something can change in a matter of minutes, and one new fact (just a single atom of truth) can transform your opinions from gold into garbage.

I'm not saying hide everything you feel and think; I'm saying have a proper perspective on just exactly how unimportant your own perspective is in the scheme of things, and weigh that pretty carefully against the chance of hurting people.  Defending your right to be honest is like defending your right to play your favorite music at top volume all the time:  what you're really fighting for is the right to call your stench a perfume.  Which is one mother of a lie.

And strangely enough, once you realize just exactly how unreal the majority of your honest thoughts and opinions are, you feel less dishonest about keeping them to yourself, and when you do express them, you don't sound like a jerk.

Honesty is, "You're really bad at this."  Truth is, "There's a reason you're failing at this, and if the ability is really important, you need to address that; if it's not important, you need to be doing something else.  The reason might also be that I'm a bad judge of how you're doing."

Honesty is, "You look terrible."  Truth is, "Your appearance is not to my taste."  Or perhaps the truth is, "You are currently undergoing treatment for cancer, and you look the best that you can look, under the circumstances."

Why go to all that trouble to cover your blunt opinion with complicated facts?  Because the notion that your opinion isn't all that important is a fact.  Truth actually allows you to take someone's feelings into account.

I have no problem with people being real.  I have a very big problem with people redefining reality to mean "the ugliest opinion you've got, stated as bluntly as possible".  Yeesh.  Get real.
A. Askewanivad on August 23rd, 2011 03:36 pm (UTC)
Honesty might be a necessary component of truth, though, even if it can't be effective on its own. Because the opposite of being honest is telling lies, and lies are false and by definition the opposite of truth.

Honesty need not be blunt or implied as truth; it's all in the delivery, and oftentimes knowing someone's honest opinion matters, because it might be better to have things out in the open where they can be dealt with and resolved, rather than to perhaps have someone secretly thinking bad about a person but pretending otherwise.
Wiseacreewin on August 23rd, 2011 03:39 pm (UTC)
I disagree. The opposite of truth is a lie; the opposite of honesty is often the suppression of a lie.

Absolute honesty is a terrible thing. Honesty itself can be okay, but it needs a LOT of truth to keep it in rein.

Secretly thinking bad things about a person usually means you are lying to yourself... or else valuing your opinion too highly. The truth would help a lot in preventing that kind of thing from festering; it treats the source rather than the symptom.
A. Askew: fringeanivad on August 23rd, 2011 03:49 pm (UTC)
I guess I differ in that I don't consider the suppression of a lie to be the opposite of honesty (more the opposite of bluntness), and don't think that being honest - absolutely or otherwise - entails saying everything one believes about the question or topic at hand, or that it necessarily means believing that one's opinion is truth. It could be a semantic issue, though.

I'd think it would be possible to say, "In my honest opinion, X is bad, but I realise that my opinion is subjective, and I'm open to having my mind changed." In that situation, there'd then be a chance for the truth to come out, as opposed to a situation where no one says anything, and people are assumed to believe things that they might not, potentially leading to problems further down the line. But that might fall under your example of honesty that has truth keeping it in rein.
Wiseacreewin on August 23rd, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
*nod* This is exactly what I'm saying.

The reason I defined honesty the way I did was because I was positive (though I could be wrong) that the people who were using it on Twitter were defining it that way.
Petermaverick_weirdo on August 23rd, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
Very true
Theo Fenraventheofenraven on August 23rd, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC)
It seems that tact has a large role to play in this, too. Employ it and avoid hurting someone's feelings.
Wiseacreewin on August 23rd, 2011 04:03 pm (UTC)
I think tact is an admission of your own possibility of being wrong; it's an inescapable truth, to me.

I also think love is a truth.
Theo Fenraventheofenraven on August 23rd, 2011 05:07 pm (UTC)

I think tact is a way of enhancing the inner censor when what you really want to do is be honest. :) As you pointed out, we have our moods. Better not to indulge, and remembering to use tact can assist with that.
Wiseacreewin on August 23rd, 2011 05:14 pm (UTC)
I think you're right, but I still think it's more than that. It's possible to change your thoughts about people and things -- I don't think most people believe that, but enough do to suggest it as a possibility, and it's something I've tried very hard to do. (That's a whooooole 'nother essay, though...)

If your thoughts are reasonable and merciful, honesty isn't something you have to fear as much. Which is sorta like internal truth.
Радаdigitalemur on August 24th, 2011 02:54 pm (UTC)
havenstone once described our crowd of college friends as "having a statute of limitations on tact." He was pointing at a few particular players who tended to do it a lot.

I'm not close to those particular friends now, or even in contact with them at all in some cases. Ultimately, I can find a lot of people who are willing to speak truth. People who can speak truth with tact and with love are rarer, and better for me, and they're who I prioritize.

Wish I'd learned that earlier, instead of challenging myself to tolerate a lot of tactless, unkind truth.
Sealgair, sometimes Celtic Maenad: light in the darknesssealgair on August 24th, 2011 02:35 am (UTC)
you know, I really needed this. I needed to hear the difference between truth & honesty. Because I hadn't separated them out in such a concrete way in my head, though the vestiges of it were there.

Thank you.