I’ve been sitting on the following post for about 3 months. In some ways it seems too priggish and superior – that’s not my goal. At the core, I’m trying to do some self-reflexion that thus far has not led to an answer… so here it is, in all it’s unfinished glory:
I’m a truth-teller. It’s not your truth. Not THE truth. It’s not even truthiness. It is my truth. And I speak my mind about it. In my adulthood, I’ve learned that most people ask for honesty hoping I’ll give something less than painful, a tad more saccharine. When the matter at hand is positive – I can genuinely give my supportive perspective. However, if the question turns on a pain or a nastiness, I am not one to sugar-coat anything. I do not balance the niceties of any given situation with the need for honest. My wits are often razor-sharp and my funny-bone pings on the acerbic. The crux of my personality, for good and for the bad, is that you can count on me to give an honest and genuine perspective.
My personal honest-streak arose out of a need. To get myself out of the mess I was born into, I had to set myself apart. I had to be different from the rest. I did not have the luxury of being a peacenik in a combative environ, I had to survive the hurts and bruises sometimes fighting back. I was the runt of the litter in my family, but I became the one to watch out for. Acting like a trashy aggressor did not make me different, it sadly made me more like those I least wanted to emulate. Being smart didn’t help me stand out either. Most of my kin are not unlike many “average Americans” in that they are actually very smart people who choose the willfully ignorant life in order to get by in their present circumstances. Most folks do this because being different, making change is hard work and a very scary undertaking. Generally speaking, people live by that adage, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” Meaning, that they’d rather deal with the familiar, even if not ideal, than take a risk with an unknown, and ignorance is an easy knowable in our society. In order for my family dynamic to continue as it has for so many generations, there was a lot of fast and loose playing with truth. So the one thing that could set me apart from my family-of-origin is a strict code of honesty – and I generally practice it to a fault. Needless to say, this personality trait has gotten me in a lot of trouble.
When most people in my community do not appreciate or want an outspoken, honest perspective it is no surprise that this has made me the target of all kinds of nastiness. Why I continue on this dangerous path of truth-telling has become an important question of late. Do I still need this strategy in the dailiness of my life; does it serve a greater purpose in my community? The answer for me is that I do not not know. So I wonder whether or not it is better to be less truthful, less up-front, more socially palatable to others, is it so important to just make nice and get along? Or, do I lose a sense of self in a muted, toned-down version of this personality trait?
I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell. ~Harry S. Truman