Honesty. It’s Overrated. * CoveyClub

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Honesty. It’s Overrated.

Sure, it’s great to strive for, but a lot of times, the truth hurts

By Karen Harrow

Whoever taught us that honesty is the best policy didn’t quite explain the whole picture.

Case in point:, the white lie, which is often needed to keep us functioning. I received a text from a friend who was at a destination wedding. She had to wear a dress without a pair of Spanx, which made it unflattering (her estimation, not mine). Her urgent photo text asked whether she still looked good, because there was no way to buy a new pair of Spanx. Unequivocally I tell her that she looks great. Lie? Yes! Of course. What good is it to tell her when she can do nothing about it? 

Another perspective: unsolicited honesty. I have a family member who chews with his mouth open, and very noisily. Not a great look or listen. But, he is someone I care about, and he is not a child. If I pointed out to him that his manners don’t suit me, I’d just be plain mean. He didn’t ask me to police his manners, and his behavior will most definitely not repel me from having a meal with him in the future. What’s the point of pointing it out? Oddly, in public, his manners are absolutely fine. 

This is similar to the unsolicited honesty of that person who sees you after a workout and blurts out, “your face is so red!” Thank you? Is there a ‘hello’ there first? What am I supposed to do with that? 

Or of people from a certain time or generation who are comfortable using weight as a compliment. I cringed recently when standing with an 80-year-old man as he greeted a woman knew with, “You look good a few pounds heavier.” Okay…honest or rude? 

Honesty can be a friendship ruiner. Someone I know doesn’t like my husband. She called to tell me how hurt and angry she was that he wouldn’t do her a favor. She said hateful things to me about him. He knew she didn’t like him already — that’s why he didn’t want to do the favor. And yet she called me to complain about him. Couldn’t she just keep her opinion to herself and spare me her assessment of my spouse? It’s honesty that I can’t un- hear. Her defense: she was just being “honest.”

Honestly, I made it even worse by compounding the honesty. I told my husband what happened. Now, how was my honesty helpful to him? What good did bringing him all that negativity do for him or my relationship with him? Couldn’t I have kept it to myself?  That bad behavior is on me. 

Honesty isn’t a right to share. It’s a discipline to be mastered. When to offer it unsolicited, when to spare someone a thought of yours they don’t need to know. In our tell-all lives, kindness should prevail first. 


  1. Tracy Gray

    I have done and encountered some of the same dilemmas you mentioned. I never know when to say something that I know is honest and meant to be constructive or just go with what the person really wants to hear whether it is honest or not. When someone approaches me and says be honest–i now ask–is that what you really want or would you prefer I just agree with you and move on? Whoever said stick to the truth and everything will be fine–apparently doesn’t deal with many people.

  2. Charu

    I completely agree. Think about those of us with children. How many times did we tell a white lie so that our child wouldn’t feel conscious of something (for example, bad hair cut)? At the end of the day, it helped them keep their confidence and then the issue didn’t even matter. To love and help someone I think is sometimes about keeping our opinions to ourselves when it will not help the other person.

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