Somebody named Dave Van Ronk said, “Honesty is the cruelest game of all, because not only can you hurt someone – and hurt them to the bone – you can feel self-righteous about it at the same time.”
Now that raises some questions.
First, does this mean you should never be honest?
Not if change is ever going to happen.
If you love other people, you have to be honest with them.
Sometimes it’s obvious when you should. For example, when someone you know is spending more time drinking than not drinking, you should say something. Chances are, that is a lifestyle for him, his version of normal. So, in essence, when it comes to other ways of living, he can’t see any better than a blind man can see what’s in front of him.
But then even the blind man knows enough to take a stick and wave it around to see if the way ahead is uncluttered with obstacles.
So, you see, if you don’t tell him, he may not figure it out for himself. That person might be standing on train tracks. You hear the whistle and feel the hair in your neck stand at attention. The perspiration builds on your chest like you’ve stepped in a thunderstorm. But you watch him stand there with his fingers in his ears singing “la la la!” as though that will make the train disappear.
Now wouldn’t you push him off the tracks to save his life?
The second question is “What if he won’t listen when I tell him the truth? What if I hurt his feelings?”
Of course that is 2 questions. Let’s go back to the train tracks.
If your friend was standing in front of an approaching train, would you really care if he listens to your pleas? You’d tell him with all the sincerity you could muster to get off the tracks before he is crushed underneath the weight of that steaming locomotive. If you could save his life, would it really matter if he got mad about it?
Then there’s the third question. “What if after all my pleading, he gets back on those tracks and waits for the next train to plow him down?”
As crazy as it seems, he will go back there because it’s his habit.
We’re all slaves of our habits. If you drink coffee every morning, that’s a habit. If you drive the same way to work every day, that’s a habit. If you comb your hair the same way every day, that’s a habit.
Of course, if you change your hairdo every three months, that’s also a habit.
We form habits because they give our lives some stability. We do what we do to cope with the world and because those activities give us something in return, like a feeling of peace.
And it doesn’t matter if that habit is good or bad, there’s a payback.
There are also consequences.
Before we go, we feel self-righteous when we are honest with others about things that don’t tempt us. If you’re not an alcoholic, it’s easy to condemn someone who is.
Just remember this phrase: There but for the grace of God go I.”
You take that to heart.