Having dedicated over six hundred words in my last article explaining why sometimes, if used responsibly, falsehoods can help a friendship, I thought that for the sake of balance I should make this one about the benefits of telling the truth. With great power comes responsibility after all, and I’m not sure that I want the three people who think that I’m somebody worth listening to to think I’m using Populus as a platform to promote fake news.
Seeing as I’ve managed to refer to the Donald in the first hundred words of this article, I may as well use him as a jumping off point into this discussion of friendship. (Not a sentence I ever thought I’d type.)
Now, I’ve tried to avoid using this blog series in order to editorialise about politics, and I’m going to continue to do that here. However, for me to make this point effectively, I’m going to raise two of what I hope are relatively uncontroversial points about President Trump. The first is that he’s not been having the best few weeks. Putting aside any opinions about the guy’s policies (which would be inappropriate here, anyway), the President’s White House is dysfunctional, his inner circle chaotic, and he doesn’t seem to be able to go two days without either him, or someone in his top team being backstabbed, purged, or otherwise taken out. The second is that Mr Trump seems to have a hard time taking criticism from absolutely anyone. I realise this is a little bit more subjective, but I feel like that’s a reasonable conclusion to draw.
Another reasonable, relevant conclusion that can be drawn here, is that the two last points are related. Friendships are, yes, a source of fun and comfort and all the rest of it, but they’re also an important tool for keeping ourselves on the straight and narrow. Generally speaking, when we’re unable to be honest with our friends, (Or Commanders-in-Chief, which I guess is a different kettle of fish entirely, but stay with me.) bad things can happen. Bad for you- that niggling feeling of self-loathing and discomfort you feel, when politeness stops you from speaking your mind to the people you’re meant to be close to. Bad for your friends- as they continue to be oblivious to their problems. And bad for your relationships, which depend on honesty to properly thrive. From the leader of the free world downwards, everybody needs to be told to get a grip occasionally.
Now, obviously, I understand that it can be tough taking criticism, especially from the people you love and respect. It can be even tougher when that criticism applies not to your behaviour, but to intrinsic traits about your personality. But your close friends are usually the only people who know you well enough to offer that kind of criticism, so when they do, it’s worth listening to, even worth seeking out if you want to improve as a person.
I understand, also, that it can be even tougher on the other side of the coin- to quote Albus Dumbledore- “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” This isn’t just because our friends are, almost by definition, the people we don’t like to piss off, but also because being honest with our friends about their shortcomings also means being honest with ourselves. If we acknowledge the imperfections of our friends, it also means we need to ask ourselves why we were drawn to people with those imperfections.
So, honesty is hard. But honesty can also set us, and our friends, on the road to becoming better people, which makes it more than worth it.
Plus, it’s very unlikely the people you find yourself having to administer home truths to will have access to nuclear codes, so really there’s not excuse.
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