Thursday, December 10, 2009

Random Acts of Honesty

In my hometown newspaper, the Peoria Journal Star, I have always loved reading this section, "Random Acts of Kindness". I love that people take the time to write into the paper about little (or big) things that strangers do for each other in Central Illinois. It is so Midwestern to me, like when my Dad visited me in my then-new home, DC, and was waving and greeting everyone we walked past in my neighborhood. I started to say, "Dad! People just don't do that here", but I caught myself and just smiled as I saw the surprise and confusion on my neighbors' faces.

I like to think that every now and then I have my own "Random Acts of Kindness", but more often than not I have "Random Acts of Honesty". I always thought that was a good thing - even if people didn't want to hear it - at the very least they always would know that I'm being honest with them. Because honesty is always the best policy, right? I can't stand it when people sugar-coat things or are anything less than direct with me. Its about respecting yourself and others. Treat others as you want to be treated - the Golden rule is on my side.

Then I saw this quiz on (btw, I think that magazine/site was created especially for me - recipes, organization, decor, entertaining tips, semi-reasonable style tips. LOVE it) - "Are You the Most Difficult Person at the Holiday Table?" Huh, I thought to myself perhaps I should explore this line of thinking. So I went through and answered each of the questions. Here's a sampling:

"Do you often find that when you do something nice for people, they do a lot of grumbling? Do they seem ungrateful or uncooperative? For example, you offered to host Thanksgiving dinner, but no one appreciated it." Sure, it annoys me when I always do the hosting and some people don't offer to bring something or help clean up. But usually they're pretty cool and communicate some sort of "thank you".

"Do you find it hard to get your calls and emails returned?" No.

"Do you think it important to express your true feelings and views authentically, even if that means upsetting other people?" Yes, most definitely.

"If someone asks for your opinion, do you think it's right to tell them frankly what you think?" Of course, why else would they be asking right?

"Do you think it’s useful to point out people’s mistakes, areas of incompetence, or previous track records of failure?" If it is relevant, yes. An honest account of history is crucial to future success.

"When you join a group of people, does the mood often shift? Does a group tend to break apart after you join it?" Not that I know of...

And then at the end they tell you that any "yes" is an indication that you are a source of unhappiness for others. Really? Am I supposed to justify telling white lies to friends and family to ensure smooth relationships and their ultimate happiness? I get that, in some situations, maybe I could hold my tongue and not express my honest opinion, and I usually know when I'm out of line and arguing at the wrong level. But there are some situations when I just cannot and will not hold my tongue or self-censor.

In my mind, I think of it like the question of journalism - are there always two sides to be told, or will truth-digging reveal that one side is clearly in the right? I believe the latter is true in many cases. It's a slippery slope - I think if someone gets in the habit of humoring people they will ultimately become inauthentic and insincere. My husband and I both share this sentiment, and I think it has allowed us to build our relationship on a clean honest slate (even if it leads to disagreements here and there). Perhaps I'm being self-righteous, but I believe in holding up the truth when it can be found. I'll just try to maintain a firm grasp on my Midwestern sensibilities too.

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