Just a Thought (#1): Honesty

Coach Joyce doing his version of Bruce Lee's It occurs to me that there is a greatness to silence… a beauty in refraining speech (especially in the light of sensitive subjects).   

There seems to be a “great confusion” in this day-in-age.  I come across many people in my life (youngsters in particular) who confuse bluntness with openness… saying whatever is on their mind with being honest.  It feels to me that it is only narcissism, coupled with a selfish need to express one’s opinion that the “blunt” person ventures to comment in the first place.  My thought is that in order to become “the person I wish to be”… I must come from a place of compassion.  If by lying I have the chance to spare someone’s feelings…. to be a friend and not a critic… I will choose to lie.  The truly “great” person is a person of “feeling” and NOT a person of so-called “honest expression.”  Express your thoughts in meaningful ways and avoid hurtful comments.  (This may also mean thinking before you speak).  But it should also be our duty to lie convincingly and with a sincere and compassionate smile. 

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~ by chencenter on February 18, 2008.

17 Responses to “Just a Thought (#1): Honesty”

  1. My grandmother used to say to me regarding any given thing I was thinking about blurting out of my mouth as a youngling “Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?” I strive always to use those three questions to filter my voice. I am not always good at it – but that is what I TRY to do.

    I also find myself posing those three questions to my young son often…

    I think it is the last of those questions that requires a degree of maturity that MOST young people just don’t have. TO be fair, Michael – they simply don’t have the life experience to know any better. Couple that with impulse control problems of youth – well – there IS a learning curve to kindness and compassion – no?

    Peace…

  2. Nice post as usual Michael. This is something that is talked about in Buddhism, the idea of “Right Speech” There is a good piece here: http://www.esolibris.com/articles/buddhism/buddhism_speech.php

    It seems like part of what you are noticing is a cultural shift away from “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all” to a Jerry Springer kind of free for all. There is also a pop psychology of legitimizing your feelings not realizing that even if your feelings are legitimate there is a gap between thought and action. Just because you think or feel something doesn’t meant you must act on it by speaking. Of course this requires introspection and maturity and as Daisy said “there is a learning curve to kindness and compassion” This is one of the prerequisites for any practice at least in vajrayana buddhism, generating a compassionate mindset before beginning any practice. Just look at any of the Dalai Lama’s teachings. There is also the common saying that compassion and wisdom are like the two wings of a bird. Without compassion you cannot reach enlightenment just as a bird with only one wing cannot fly.

    peace,
    greg

  3. Daisy- Nice to hear from you as always. Your grandmother sounds like a very kind and nurturing person (not to mention, wise). I think Greg continued on your point regarding maturity. I do think that maturity has a great deal to do with compassion. Compassion, as your grandmother would probably agree, should be engrained as soon as you exit the womb.

    Greg- I’ll definately check out the link soon (as I continue to learn from buddhist philosophy). I’m a bit out-of-touch with youngsters these days (except for my gf, who is younger), but it seems to me that even throughout the “Bible belt” people increasingly disregard “the golden rule” (of which this article has something to do with). It’s almost as if they take the testament of “thou shalt not lie” and turn it into “thou shall be brutally honest.” I love your referance to the bird with one wing. I hadn’t heard that one. Thank you you guys! 😛

  4. Certainly there are a lot of folks who have trouble understanding temperance and compassion but, I have to say I disagree with your conclusion. Inevitably the truth comes out from somewhere. Once we realize that our “friend” lied to us, it causes us to question our trust in them. This seems quite damaging.

    I think the skills we need to develop are knowing when to say nothing and, when we must speak, knowing how to express our thoughts appropriately.

  5. First- Thanks for the comment. It’s great to meet new friends (and definately ones with blogs themselves…no I have more late-night reading I can do). Second- I see your point, but maybe I should have expanded my explanation. I’ll try to do it here::… If, for example, you are close friends with someone and they ask “am I making the right choice in marrying David?”. As a friend you should pick your words with care. You should take into account your friend’s happiness, now and in the future. Now sure..there is space for honesty, but comments such as “David is kinda funny-looking, maybe you can do better,”…you should keep to yourself. BIG lies are a completely different story. It’s about choices and what Buddhist’s refer to as “Right Speech” (as Greg said above). Now… here’s something you’d not know unless I told you:::….

    The first comment that I recieved on this blog entry, I had to delete. As much as I encourage comments, his/her words (he/she used a fake name) were quite hurtful. This person said, “So, I’ve thought about it, and I want to be honest here, so I just wanted to let you know that you are a very creepy person…Grow up and find someone your own age.” [regarding my relationship with my girlfriend]. People should be entitled to their own opinions…but hurtful comments never benefit anyone, including the one who sent it.

  6. First- Thanks for the comment. It’s great to meet new friends (and definately ones with blogs themselves…now I have more late-night reading to do). 🙂 Second- I see your point, but maybe I should have expanded my explanation. I’ll try to do it here::… If, for example, you are close friends with someone and they ask “am I making the right choice in marrying David?”. As a friend you should pick your words with care. You should take into account your friend’s happiness, now and in the future. Now sure..there is space for honesty, but comments such as “David is kinda funny-looking, maybe you can do better,”…you should keep to yourself. BIG lies are a completely different story. It’s about choices and what Buddhist’s refer to as “Right Speech” (as Greg said above). Now… here’s something you’d not know unless I told you:::….

    The first comment that I recieved on this blog entry, I had to delete. As much as I encourage comments, his/her words (he/she used a fake name) were quite hurtful. This person said, “So, I’ve thought about it, and I want to be honest here, so I just wanted to let you know that you are a very creepy person…Grow up and find someone your own age.” [regarding my relationship with my girlfriend]. People should be entitled to their own opinions…but hurtful comments never benefit anyone, including the one who sent it.

  7. Michael – remember that what other people think or say about you says more about them than it does about you. What d you think it says about someone who uses a fake name to put down your relationship? Well, it tells me this person is likely a coward and probably jealous of you (or possibly of her?!) Either way – you must not let this bother you. You know what you have. You know that love is never wrong. Don’t let some small-minded person’s opinion affect you so.

    I will say that if a friend asked me if I thought he or she should or should not marry someone – I would do everything in my power not to answer – but in the end I would have to hint at something along the lines of “When in Doubt – Don’t.”. If someone is asking me – someone is doubting. You shouldn’t marry someone if you have to ask someone else if you should marry… you know?

    It’s late and I am rambling. Apologies. Peace –

  8. I totally agree- there is always a time and place for everything, and when a certain comment just isnt necessary, it really should just not be expressed-

    Forexample whomever the person was who made that comment you had to delete. Obviously, this person is somewhat a coward for not being able to say what he/she had to say to you face-to-face and doing it online with a fake name…that wasn’t even totally revelent to the blog!

    Sorry, i’m getting worked up now. lol

    But the point is, if what you have to say won’t truly benefit the person in a positive way, then why say it?
    I mean, constructive critiscism is a whole other thing- versus saying something, although it may be the truth, negatively and hurtfully. And when words are necessary, one should chose them carefully.

  9. Applause for Caitlin! Whenever we speak, if we thought first about how it will benefit others, the world would be a lot friendlier. (And perhaps a bit quieter.)

    I was once faced with the “Should I marry her?” question from a friend. I answered simply, “Do you love her?” To which I was received sharp scolding from other friends. In the end they got married and seemed happy. That is always a tough question to answer, but if we put the other ahead of ourselves, we should be able to get through.

    Is there another post about your girlfriend? I have only read this one post so far. She’s not 12 is she? If you are both adults and you care for each other, that’s more than most people get in this world. I wish you the best.

  10. Daisy- Thank you. And no, I don’t let it bother me. Of course when you first come across something like that though, you’re like, “what is this world coming to?” But I’ve meditated since then.

    Caitlin- Getting worked up? haha. That’s my little wushu-er. He or she better be lucky that I didn’t give his/her email to all my students. 😛

    Neo- (I call you that because I have yet to install a Japanese language suite on my computer. Still don’t know how…and what I know of you is from your blog) Anyways… I want everyone to know that this blog isn’t about something my girlfriend said. She is honest in the sweetest possible way towards me. She’s 19 (going on 25. quite mature) and yes, I love her dearly…so that deleted commenter can go and “get stuffed.” (i know that’s an australian saying… but I just got done watching the movie “The Castle”)

  11. びっくり can be romanized as Bikkuri. I didn’t think that it was something your gf said; I just wondered how the offensive commenter even knew about your age or your gf’s age, since I hadn’t seen that info. Just out of curiosity how old are you? (Not that it has any bearing on the issue.)

    I am 42. A couple years ago I went out with a 19 year old. I found it very boring; however, I have met even younger girls who had a lot more going on in their lives. (Don’t worry, I’m not looking to date the younger ones; just laying some framework about maturity.) It is clear that age is only a small factor in maturity. It sounds like your gf has a lot more to offer. As I said before, if you’re both adults and love each other, go for it.

    I just met a very interesting young lady, who I am hoping to get to know much better. When I tell people about her, I talk about how she seems to have a kind heart and a strong spirit, and she seems free of vanity (although she is beautiful). However, everyone else immediately asks, “How old is she?” I spent time asking about her work with abused children and about her family and interests: I never got around to asking her age. Just didn’t seem that important. 🙂

  12. I’m 29 years old, but I am consistantly told that I look very young. It helps, b/c when I visit my gf’s college campus, I blend in quite well. 😛 —And as far as who the offensive commenter is…I have my suspicions. I’m always up for a little detective work, eventhough I can be a bit “Inspector Clouseau (pink panther).”

  13. Hey Michael,

    As you know I am a fairly blunt person, and being the friend you are, I would say things around you that I would refrain around others. You make a valid point about individuals who arrogantly make the words, honesty and bluntness, synonymous with integrity. I agree with you and the posts about learning to control our impulsive natures; however, I think a larger issue is lost. When I find myself thinking negatively or unkindly, I don’t ask my God to give me the power to control my tongue and lips: I ask Him for the power to control my HEART.

    I disagree that little “white lies” are okay. It is a shame that lying has become such a normalcy that we even justify it by saying it is necessary. Granted, there may be a few RARE occasions when we feel lying to someone is okay, because it protects and spares hurt feelings; however, in many cases we offer up lies because we have been trained that we should lie. For example, when you go to someone’s house and he/she fixes you a meal, you have learned that saying, “Thank you. That was delicious,” is the right thing to say, despite the fact you did not care for the dish. I think you could avoid lying by refocusing your attention and your heart on positive truths. Instead of lying you might say, “Thank you so much for cooking. It must have taken you all day,” or, “Thank you for cooking: it was really sweet of you.” Ultimately, I believe that in MOST situations lying is not justified: it is just a thoughtless and learned reaction.

    Enjoyed reading the blog!!!! I need to get back to work. 🙂 I’ll leave you with a quote since you love them:

    “Let your yes’es be yes’es, and your no’s, be no’s.”
    – Do you know the author of that one?

  14. How…this one is my hottest topics yet! And yes…I do love comments, especially by people I consider family. Anywho…down to the nitty-gritty. You make a good point in that even “little lies” are a trifle unnessasary (being in that they are not truth), however, you must admit that often, people can’t get away with it. Your dinner example is a good one, but not if the host asks a question such as “was the food good” or “Did I overdue the turkey?” Love you. “Time out Prosser!” who’s that quote by? (i don’t know yours) 😛

  15. The author is Matthew. But, it is a direct quote from Jesus.

    “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’, ‘No’. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” – Matthew 5:37

  16. I share most of the same thoughts. I do see the value in silence. You can miss al lot of whats going on around you while you are speaking. However, I have learned to avoid those comments or replies that might be hurtful to someone. I am a stong believer in honesty, becuase I believe that there is a higher being to answer to when I die. I just work my way around the tough comments. There is a time for those tough comments, but one should choose those time carefully. Many people seem to find it easy to say things like “Everything is going to be OK.” When in reality it’s not going to be OK. I might say something like “We will work threw it.” instead. It’s not a lie and it’s more comforting and supportive.

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