Saturday, November 29, 2014

Too Much Honesty

There is such a thing. 

When I was a kid, I used to lie compulsively. I lied about my exams, homework, bodily functions, friends, etc. It came easily to me. And then, one scary day when my lies were discovered for what they were by my ferocious mother, I finally got a life lesson that shaped the rest of my existence. She said, “If you’re lying, it means you’re afraid. And I didn’t raise you to be afraid of anything.” Except her. I was afraid of her. But more than that, I was afraid of seeing that disappointed expression on her face again. 

That’s the day I quit lying. Well, I quit telling blatant lies. I know how to spin a tale as well as the next person, but never do I consciously tell outright lies. In fact, my biggest area of lie-telling is in the realm of punctuality and the time-space continuum. Not so bad, considering there’s a whole world out there telling lies about murder and mayhem.

But there is definitely a down-side to all this honesty. For one, not everyone believes the ’truth’. For example, “I don’t love you” starts to sound like “I’m scared of my feelings and I’m emotionally closed off so please continue with your attentions while I realize that I do in fact love you.” Just as a BTW - this one actually lost me a friend and a lover. 

The other truths I have told in my life have revolved around my work. 

I said: “There’s no point making changes to a screenplay based on feedback from people who will have no say in its making” 

They heard: “I have no intention to work on this further. Screw you.”

I said: "I would love to work with you but if you think our relationship will ever transcend the professional, then maybe it’s not a good idea”

They heard: You can keep trying and who knows? Late nights, wine, movies… anything can happen.

I said: Wow… this (script, film, business plan, food) is really good. You ARE talented!

They heard: Let’s get naked and start sexy time.

No, its not always about sex but then, it mostly is. Then there’s the other stuff that comes up linked to self-esteem (I say no, he hears yes, I say no again, he says terrible things to retaliate for teasing and rejection), and of course, friendship. 

I always thought friendship was the one thing that could handle honesty. That was because you chose your friends, not because of the things you feared but because of the things that made you stronger with each friendship. You liked to spend time with each other not because of dread but of solidarity. And what shows greater solidarity and indeed, respect, if it isn’t the commitment to honesty with each other? Sure, we’ve all told the odd “You look lovely” and “of course he still loves you” white lies. But when it comes to the big things - well, it seems total honestly may not be the best policy. 

I say: If I support you in this, you make me lie to everyone else

They hear : I don’t love you so clearly we can’t be friends anymore.

I say: You’ve told me many things in the past that haven’t worked out. This time, I want to see proof.

They hear: I don’t trust you and hence, we can’t be friends anymore

I say: You’re cheating on your wife/husband? Why aren’t you talking to them about all that’s wrong? Or does security matter so much that you’d rather they live not knowing that they don’t have you?

They hear: You’re wrong and we can’t be friends anymore.

I say: You shouldn’t drink anymore because you can’t hold it and start becoming difficult to handle.

They hear: You’re an alcoholic and we can’t be friends anymore.

And so on and so forth.

I understand that it seems harsh, but the truth is that I could just as easily have said that right thing that wouldn’t ruffle any feathers and keep the boat un-rocked. But what’s the point of that? When we choose friends, we choose them for making us better, not just to fill space around us. And one of the ways of being better is to be less fearful of the world around us. Maybe that’s why one should tell the truth to the ones closest to us… make us stronger. No?

A few days ago however, I watched Interstellar and the best thing I liked about it was the cool robot with a 80% honesty setting, because “emotional creatures like humans can’t handle the whole truth.” That robot probably got it right, and it doesn’t even need friends. Maybe it's high time I got the message.

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