Honesty? How about a nice big cup of Shut The Hell Up!

 

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.

Matthew Rosario

American / Writer / Musician

  • D

    On the other hand, suburbanite passive-aggression often requires nuts of steel to subvert, and you can be incorrectly characterized in the manner you’ve detailed here by someone who’s been butt-hurt by a speaking of the truth. A lot of the time, these so-called “victims” are, really, just sheltered pussies… like it or not.

    That said: what some insecure, self-absorbed people often miss out on is that making it sting on purpose belies your intent to conquer. In the end, if you care enough about someone, you’ll meet them on their level before dishing out what you have to say. If you can’t do that, check yourself, ‘cos you’re probably like a bunch of people I know — big, fuck-off superiority complexes that require constant grooming and maintenance.

    -D

    • Great points. “Sheltered Pussies” or not, the very meaning of the word tact implies that one should know their audience, and indeed, execute appropriately. Ignorance or deliberate spite are equally punishable. But, as you said, most often person who deliver “sour honesty”, if you will, are looking for ego points. Exploiting the vulnerability of others undoubtably does wonders for those with weak egos and a need to make a spectavle of themselves. People need to be grounded about this kind of thing: acting carelessly with the assumption that flimsy philosophy will save them.

      • D

        Agreed! A lot of this could be avoided were opinions not placed on such a pedestal of importance and guarded so carefully. Maybe it’s this, moreso than the placation of ego, that informs the negative mindset which spurred you to writing? What if all opinions were totally naked, and we openly, unselfishly offered them up for conversational sacrifice? I mean real candor, accompanied by a self-aware understanding that not even being proven totally ignorant about something is necessarily bad — useful on whatever end of the debate you end up on. Practicing that actually works wonders on your self-worth in a number of ways: destroying illusory self-concept; wiping out your false assumptions and learning new things; making human interaction generally more enjoyable… so on. I look at that as a facet of wisdom. I’m only human, and I’d never claim that I manage to do this all the time, because I get irritated/frustrated/defensive like anybody else … but mindfully rehearsing this when feeling negatively will probably elongate my lifespan.

        • Really, the key to the kind of ideal your expressing involves a keen sense of mindfulness and moderation. There must also be an awareness of our own egos and tendencies which mean to promote ourselves and overshadow the role of others. When someone asks for our counsel or opinion, we give it. But, insisting in such ways that employ extreme language and disregard means not to cater to the best interest of others, but rather, only ourselves.

  • D

    On the other hand, suburbanite passive-aggression often requires nuts of steel to subvert, and you can be incorrectly characterized in the manner you've detailed here by someone who's been butt-hurt by a speaking of the truth. A lot of the time, these so-called "victims" are, really, just sheltered pussies… like it or not.

    That said: what some insecure, self-absorbed people often miss out on is that making it sting on purpose belies your intent to conquer. In the end, if you care enough about someone, you'll meet them on their level before dishing out what you have to say. If you can't do that, check yourself, 'cos you're probably like a bunch of people I know — big, fuck-off superiority complexes that require constant grooming and maintenance.

    -D

  • Great points. "Sheltered Pussies" or not, the very meaning of the word tact implies that one should know their audience, and indeed, execute appropriately. Ignorance or deliberate spite are equally punishable. But, as you said, most often person who deliver "sour honesty", if you will, are looking for ego points. Exploiting the vulnerability of others undoubtably does wonders for those with weak egos and a need to make a spectavle of themselves. People need to be grounded about this kind of thing: acting carelessly with the assumption that flimsy philosophy will save them.

  • D

    Agreed! A lot of this could be avoided were opinions not placed on such a pedestal of importance and guarded so carefully. Maybe it's this, moreso than the placation of ego, that informs the negative mindset which spurred you to writing? What if all opinions were totally naked, and we openly, unselfishly offered them up for conversational sacrifice? I mean real candor, accompanied by a self-aware understanding that not even being proven totally ignorant about something is necessarily bad — useful on whatever end of the debate you end up on. Practicing that actually works wonders on your self-worth in a number of ways: destroying illusory self-concept; wiping out your false assumptions and learning new things; making human interaction generally more enjoyable… so on. I look at that as a facet of wisdom. I'm only human, and I'd never claim that I manage to do this all the time, because I get irritated/frustrated/defensive like anybody else … but mindfully rehearsing this when feeling negatively will probably elongate my lifespan.

  • Andrea G.Sanz

    The line between being rude and being honest is often crossed by those who have no idea about the difference between those two. They learn that rude = bad word, and honest = good word. So, when called rude, instead of changing behavior, it’s easier to change the word to feel better with themselves. In general, the need of defining or explaining what they’re doing, indicates they also sense it might not be 100% appropriate. There is one example of the “I’m just being honest” that really annoys me, and it’s very common among lady talks. It annoys me so much that sometimes I can’t really hold back and I get a bit mean, just like this:

    A girl will just come up to you in the morning and, to start a conversation, instead of saying an innocent “good morning” she will say something like:
    – “What’s up with that face, you don’t look so good!” (As if you’re sick, when they know your health is perfectly fine”
    – It’s my morning face.
    – Hey, don’t take it the wrong way, I’m just being honest.
    – I don’t need you being honest. I need coffee.

    • LMAO. Yes, I think that’s a very good example of the kind of nonsense I meant to convey in this article. Ignorance is truly the catalyst that makes such offenses possible. People just don’t realize their own motives and the manner of their execution. The most infuriating thing—as you’ve alluded out—is how merely saying the phrase is somehow universally understood as a free pass for being a complete moron. Discourteousness is being excused under the banner of honesty. Ironically a policy of honest is meant to best serve humanity, and yet, the tactics used work to the very contrary of that goal.

  • Andrea G.Sanz

    The line between being rude and being honest is often crossed by those who have no idea about the difference between those two. They learn that rude = bad word, and honest = good word. So, when called rude, instead of changing behavior, it's easier to change the word to feel better with themselves. In general, the need of defining or explaining what they're doing, indicates they also sense it might not be 100% appropriate. There is one example of the "I'm just being honest" that really annoys me, and it's very common among lady talks. It annoys me so much that sometimes I can't really hold back and I get a bit mean, just like this:

    A girl will just come up to you in the morning and, to start a conversation, instead of saying an innocent "good morning" she will say something like:
    – "What's up with that face, you don't look so good!" (As if you're sick, when they know your health is perfectly fine"
    – It's my morning face.
    – Hey, don't take it the wrong way, I'm just being honest.
    – I don't need you being honest. I need coffee.

  • Really, the key to the kind of ideal your expressing involves a keen sense of mindfulness and moderation. There must also be an awareness of our own egos and tendencies which mean to promote ourselves and overshadow the role of others. When someone asks for our counsel or opinion, we give it. But, insisting in such ways that employ extreme language and disregard means not to cater to the best interest of others, but rather, only ourselves.

  • LMAO. Yes, I think that's a very good example of the kind of nonsense I meant to convey in this article. Ignorance is truly the catalyst that makes such offenses possible. People just don't realize their own motives and the manner of their execution. The most infuriating thing—as you've alluded out—is how merely saying the phrase is somehow universally understood as a free pass for being a complete moron. Discourteousness is being excused under the banner of honesty. Ironically a policy of honest is meant to best serve humanity, and yet, the tactics used work to the very contrary of that goal.

  • Nina Gray

    Hi, while I completely agree with your post, I just realized that you were actually being rude to make your point, inevitably placing yourself into the category of people that you so spectacularly despise!

    So If you really had nothing good to say, then why didn’t YOU just shut the Hell up? (I don’t generally use swear words, but this was too tempting to resist. I am sorry!).

    And hey i don’t intend to hurt you in anyway, but am really not able to see the line between making-your-point and you-being-rude in this post.

    have a good one,

    -Nina

  • Nina Gray

    Hi, while I completely agree with your post, I just realized that you were actually being rude to make your point, inevitably placing yourself into the category of people that you so spectacularly despise!

    So If you really had nothing good to say, then why didn't YOU just shut the Hell up? (I don't generally use swear words, but this was too tempting to resist. I am sorry!).

    And hey i don't intend to hurt you in anyway, but am really not able to see the line between making-your-point and you-being-rude in this post.

    have a good one,

    -Nina

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