How would you define honesty in friendship? Do you think it’s okay to stretch, hide, manipulate or shade facts as long as it doesn’t hurt the person? What about the idea that it’s actually being kind, even loving to, uh, judiciously tweak any facts you believe would bother, anger, sadden the person?
Honesty is a quality I never thought about when it came to friends – I simply believed if a friend told me something, well, it must be true. And I continue to feel that way with my friends – I used the past tense of believe because I no longer look at the expression of honesty in the same way.
I don’t really know how old I was the first time I came face to face with honesty though I’m thinking I was 5 or 6 years old. My older sister, CJ, was watching my brother and me when, for a reason I will never know, I decided to lock the storm door. Now, for years I have wracked my brain trying to figure out what in the world seized control of my hand those few seconds it took for me to turn that lock.
Everything seemed to happen pretty quick. The first thing I recall is hearing a banging on the door followed by a loud, high pitched noise that I soon discovered was my stepfather yelling for the one who locked the door. I froze. And I could feel 4 eyes ( belonging to CJ and our brother, G.W.) boring into my skull, willing me to admit that I was the one that locked the door – me, Peppy, the horrid, door-locking fiendish criminal they formerly called their sister.
Well, not only did I staunchly refrain from stepping forward to plead guilty but, when asked if I had locked the door I said “no sir.” Hey, at least I was a mannerly little horrid, door-locking fiendish criminal now known as dishonest! I always considered the uh, discipline, that followed as more of a branding because the lesson from that experience was seared into my brain – not to mention a strange aversion to locking doors. But, seriously, it instilled in me the importance of always being honest regardless of the consequences.
It also reinforced a simplistic approach to honesty. You either tell the truth or you don’t. I had no idea honesty could be riddled with so many loop holes such as “justifying circumstances” – it is used to crop and shade a lie into something called a little white lie. These little things are padded with just the right amount of truths and half-truths that they’re accepted in all the finest places. Now, I’m certainly not trying to stand on some holier-than-thou soap box. It’s just that, once again, something in life brought me face to face with honesty and, oddly enough, it was illness followed by a conversation with my sister, CJ, that prompted me to re-evaluate how I defined honesty … and what it means to friendship.
My approach to honesty is still simplistic in that, when all is said and done, you either tell the truth or you don’t. The Farlex dictionary uses words like uprightness, truthfulness, and sincerity to define honesty and those tend to be what come to my mind when thinking of honesty. However, you will also find the words candor, forthrightness, directness, and frankness thrown in the mix and, while I can see the connection, I can also see potential loop holes. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate such qualities as candor or forthrightness in my friends – it’s just that I don’t think having a friend who will readily point out my faults or can tell-me-like-it-is means we have an honest friendship. I think this is a good place to pause a minute to add that I ventured into this subject by questioning myself, not my friends.
Actually, it was CJ that first questioned me. Remember I said it was, partly, a conversation with my sister that had, once again, brought me face to face with honesty. After pointing out the dificulty I have in sharing how I feel when it comes to my illness, she looked at me and simply asked “Do you think that is being honest with the people that care about you?” Ahh, I just have to love that sister of mine. Actually, CJ’s candor is an example of how honesty in friendship works – the context of any candid expression between friends should reveal respect, love, concern, compassion, understanding, etc. as being the motive. Now, it’s not to say that, initially, I was overcome with the warm fuzzies upon hearing my sister question my honesty, however, because of our relationship I didn’t question her motive.
My sister’s question helped me to, first, re-examine the limits I had always placed on what I shared of myself with friends – that sashayed right into pondering the meaning of honesty in friendship period. I have realized that I don’t need limits when it comes to sharing my feelings with those I trust. It is important we feel comfortable sharing our lives with a sense of trust and confidence … knowing it is each other’s well-being and happiness fueling the conversation.
I came across a quote recently that I thought summed up nicely how I would define what honesty in friendship means to me. It simply said ” Good communication encourages honesty in relationships.” The solid relationships in my life, the friendships I cherish, are the ones where healthy communication serves as the foundation for all the laughter, heart-to-heart chats, and even a few tears that flow readily and easily whenever spending time with my friends.
This touches on my own feelings regarding the meaning of honesty in friendship – the next post will delve more into honesty in general … how it is manifested among friends and the way illness can influence honesty because, suddenly, some become uncomfortable sharing anything fun going on in their own lives.
I hope you check back for the follow-up – until then, if you have any thoughts, insights or opinions on this subject, please, just be honest and tell me about it in the comments.