Ever notice that, right after someone says something really shitty, they tack this little gem on the end:
“I’m just being honest”
Yeah, but honestly, you’re being a dick.
As if proclaiming intentions of being honest could make any previous statement any less hurtful, people throw it out there like a get-of-jail-free card. The phrase itself has become the “LOL” of being a douche bag. Just as “LOL” is used to dispel the awkwardness of that previous sexual comment made to our crush over the Internet or text, “I’m just being honest” means, “you can’t blame me for being a dick”. It’s the modern day equivalent of “don’t kill the messenger”. But, folks, let’s be real: sometimes messengers die. Invoking this phrase as a means to protect yourself from being labeled a complete as*hole for saying something low, is unacceptable. I don’t care how “honest” you are, I need you to be a decent human being as well. And that’s really the issue here: Honesty is fine, but delivery is something else entirely. It is completely possible (and probably smarter) to express ourselves honestly, without having to be a jerk about it. Being honest doesn’t give you the right to go around and saying whatever you want and treating people like shit. So, we need to exercise more caution. There’s a fine line between what truly needs to be said and what’s just unnecessary, and that line can make all the difference between a successful person and a bitter one.
Remember when grandma used to smack you and say “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? You’d go running off into a corner to cry your eyes out and call her a bitch under your breath. But, then a funny thing happened: you realized that there was wisdom in her words. Somewhere deep down, you knew that words (and backhanded slaps) can hurt, that she was right—even if you did fantasize about adding a laxative to her next cup of tea. It’s true that we often poke fun at these kind of cultural axioms, but in reality, such warnings have withstood the test of time simply because they’re true; their value has proven itself over and over again across the entire continuum of our humanity.
But, despite this particular warning, people are quite careless about throwing around their words, often not realizing the true weight of the verbal messages they send. Oh sure, we’ve identified the more extreme values of verbal offense in the form of abuse, yet, we take little heed of how powerful our words can be in the more casual grey areas of everyday interaction. You see, during our pursuit of liberation from the rigid social etiquette that defined the Victorian era, western ideology adopted a new mantra: if a little is good, then more must be better. This quickly translated to: say everything.
In breaking the chains of our former social awareness, speaking frankly has become a highly valued ability in America—practically our damn trademark. In fact, it’s become one of the most revered qualities a person can proclaim to have in a Democratic environment. Yet, increasingly, “being honest” has become nearly synonymous with “being an as*hole”, and many people have incorporated this into their self-image with philosophical tidbits like:
“People think I’m being a jerk when I’m just being honest. Those people just can’t handle the truth.”
Yea, or maybe they’re appalled at what an absolute dick you are. And, what truth is that exactly? That you have to hurt someone to make a point? That no utterance of honesty can be made without bringing out the big guns and mowing people down? I think people can handle the truth just fine when you’re not demanding that they also swallow tactless insults. There’s something to be said for tactful delivery ladies and gentlemen, and if you don’t have it, you’re not just a douche bag, you’re an idiot as well.
But, again, the real tough part is how integrated this idea of speaking frankly has become with the expression of our personalities. People literally can’t separate the two. How many times have you heard these gems?
“I just say whatever I think”
“I don’t sugar coat things”
“I tell it like it is”
“If you don’t like what I’m saying, too bad. This is how I am”
“I’m not a b*tch/as*hole, I’m just real”
I even saw a Facebook status the other day that said something to the effect of:
“I don’t apologize for the things I say”
Really? You don’t apologize for anything you say? How do you have friends?
This idea of “being honest” while exercising disregard is meant to absolve people from the guilt and responsibility of being a decent human being. Practitioners of this kind of philosophy rarely blame themselves, and instead, often blame the VICTIMS of their words. “If you’re offended, that’s your problem.” Yea, some people are sensitive, some people can’t handle revelations that find them at fault, but some people are also dicks—like you. Speaking bluntly doesn’t mean that we always say the right thing and that we should never apologize for offending someone with our words. Being honest means telling people the facts, what they need to know—not making a damn spectacle of yourself at the expense of others. We’re honest with people who are closest to us because we care about them. So, the next time you want to say something “honest”, stop and think. Use some tact. And, don’t be afraid to hold back once in a while.