The Best Policy

Ann's photoWhen I was about six years old, I desperately wanted a pair of glasses.  And not just any glasses, I wanted  the “cat eye” framed glasses that were so popular at the time.  My older sister had a pair and so did Susan Breneke, who I thought was the coolest kid in the entire first grade.  I wanted those glasses so badly that I actually lied to my mother, telling her that far-away objects looked kind of fuzzy to me.  (My sister had described her vision problems to me in detail, so I knew just what to say.)  Unfortunately, my mom didn’t rush out and buy me a pair of glasses, which is what I thought would happen.  She took me for an eye exam, and I passed with flying colors.  I never did get those glasses.

I’m an adult now, and I no longer believe it telling lies to get what I want.   But there are still times when I think it would be easier to lie than tell the truth, and sometimes I struggle with being completely honest.

For example, I may want to tell a lie in order to spare a person’s feelings.  I know that people do that for me now and then.  When my husband and I are getting ready to go out, I’ll often ask his opinion of my outfit, sometimes even uttering the dreaded question, “Does this make me look fat?”  The closest he’s ever come to saying yes was the time I had just bought a new dress with lots of pleats at the waist and he asked me, “Have you seen the back view?”  Which was his subtle way of letting me know it made my butt look bigger than Cleveland.

Other times, I’ll hedge a little bit on my honest opinion when I’m talking to someone I know holds completely different views from me on a sensitive subject.  I’ve seen so many people become deeply offended, or even enraged, when someone dares to disagree with them that I’ve become a little too cautious in my responses.  There are times when telling the truth is harder than it sounds.

But I also know that I want to live my life as honestly and openly as I possibly can, and that means that I need to tell the truth about who I am and what I believe.  I need to accept the risk that there are going to be people who don’t like what I say or do, and that the loss of those relationships will probably sting, at least for awhile.  But the fear of rejection doesn’t outweigh the value of being true to my real self.

Like my husband, I need to always temper honesty with tact and sensitivity.  Honesty is never an excuse to run roughshod over someone’s feelings.  But handled correctly, telling the truth is actually easiest in the long run.  I don’t have to worry about keeping track of any little white lies I may have told if I always give an honest answer to a direct question.  If I admit to the many embarrassing things I have done in my life, there’s no need to worry about anyone “discovering” them.

And best of all, when I am honest with my friends and family, I know that those who stay in relationship with me like me for who I really am.  Any way you look at it, honesty really is the best policy.

72 thoughts on “The Best Policy

  1. Good Advice Ann. I find I have many opinions but am careful that unless I am asked “directly” as you pointed out it’s hard to go against the crowd. Buy who do I want to be true to, the crowd or myself? Food for thought.

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    • For me, I used to be true to the crowd. But the older I get, the more I am realizing that being true to me is the most important. Although I still tend to hold off on giving my opinion unless I am directly asked. But I think that is okay…..

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  2. This is really a tough conversation with people especially when you know they hold a completely different view. This is such good advice. It’s always best to be you first, and to be true to your own heart. Very good post! 🌞

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    • Yes, I have found that being honest, yet tactful, is the best way to go. There are always those who can’t tolerate differing views, but in the long run, those relationships weren’t going to last anyway. The trick, I think, is to say, “I disagree” rather than “you’re wrong.” Just words, but profoundly different meanings!

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    • Okay, something is really weird between our blogs! I tried to “like” your most recent post, and I couldn’t. Nothing happened when I clicked on the like button, and I couldn’t get to the comments either. I have no idea why. Maybe I should unfollow you and then follow you again? But it is so weird that there is some sort of barrier up…for a while you couldn’t see my posts at all, and I can see yours, but not comment or like them!

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  3. Telling the truth is indeed a difficult, even a thorny topic. I am in complete agreement with you and I have had similar experiences from early childhood on. As a young boy I found it especially hard to tell the truth, when I got caught doing something I wasn’t supposed to do. My life’s story is also filled with white lies avoiding to hurt someone’s feelings.
    What does your blog teach us? When it comes to our personal convictions and including as in my case deeply felt religious beliefs, we must be first of all true to ourselves by upholding the truth. When confronted with people who hold radically different views, the best response towards these people would be to say, Let’s agree that we disagree and if possible leave it at that.
    Thank you, Ann, for giving us food for thought and reflection!

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    • I think most children don’t limit themselves to the truth, because their sense of morals is still developing, and they also have so little control of their lives that they resort to lies when they feel it is necessary. But yes, as we mature, we realize that the truth is best, even when it makes us or others uncomfortable. And I totally agree that agreeing to disagree is sometimes the best way to move forward. I know who I am and what I believe, but I don’t feel the need to force others to believe the same way I do. All I want is for my beliefs to be respected, and I am wiling to do the same for others. Thanks, Peter! Your comments are always spot on!

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  4. So true that if people can’t accept you for who you honestly are – then they are not true friends. My husband and his best friend from 3rd grade hold polar opposite political views but because they are such good friends they don’t let that become a road block in the friendship. I am much more comfortable with people who are of the “what you see is what you get” variety. Those who try to blend – chameleons – make it hard to really get to know them…

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    • I agree! I have friends and family (whom I cherish) from all over the spectrum, in terms of religious and political views. But I value them all, and they value me, and in the end that’s all that counts. As my Great Aunt Mickey said, “You should never forget the possibility that you might be wrong.” Wise words, I think. And they keep me humble! Meanwhile, I also prefer the company of those who speak their minds. We never have to wonder what they are really thinking!

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  5. Indeed – it gets a bit easier as we get older and a bit more secure in who we are as well as learning how to speak our truth tactfully. I was waiting for you to reveal something – lol! But then….. you did – a life lesson/principle. Thank you, Ann!

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  6. I live this post but perhaps my morality isn’t as pure as others who comment?

    In my experience sometimes harsh truths have had a devastating impact, but I think it depends on the personality of the person on the receiving end?

    I’ll tell the truth, but I’m totally okay withholding it or taking a more diplomatic approach.

    Your blog is great, this post really got me thinking.

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    • Yes, I think how honest we are can be tempered by the person we are talking to at the moment. Some people require more tact than others, and so do some situations. And you’re right about withholding, we don’t always have to give our opinions, sometimes silence is best. Thanks so much for your kind words!

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  7. I think little white lies to spare someone’s feelings are ok – for example, I would not want to make someone insecure about their appearance by not admiring their new outfit or hairstyle even if I didn’t like it. But like you, I struggle with challenging views that I disagree with for fear of offending people. Blatant racism and sexism are easy to call out, but i’m getting better at the “lesser” stuff and tell myself I shouldn’t be worrying about offending people who obviously have given no thought to whether their strongly expressed views might be offending me! Like a commenter above, I have a friend from school whose political views differ greatly from mine, but because our friendship was formed long before we thought of such things it has survived. We know what not to talk about – the last time politics was mentioned was after the EU Referendum when we both voted Remain and she commented it was one of the few times we’d ever been on the same side.

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    • Yes I think compliments, even insincere ones, can be a good thing. It’s one thing to say you don’t like an outfit someone is trying on in the dressing room and considering buying, but it’s quite another to say it when the person has already bought it and is wearing it! And I think it’s possible to come up with something positive to say about almost any outfit with out being dishonest, too.
      I also have good friends who look at things very differently than I do, but we remain good friends by respecting each other’s right to disagree. I hate the idea that we can only be in relationship with people who think just like us…that’s so limiting, and even a bit arrogant I think. Good for you for staying friends with that woman, even if you rarely agree!

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  8. I enjoyed reading this – and I can relate too! Learning to be honest, yes, with tact and discernment, has been a muscle that’s grown stronger over time. Age and experience have had something to do with it – a perk of being over 50:-).

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    • I agree! I’m almost 60, and I have found that being tactfully honest has gotten easier with each passing year. I guess as we age we get more comfortable with who we really are, or maybe we just don’t have the energy to pretend any more. Either way, it’s a good thing!

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  9. I appreciate honesty, and I think people can and should be honest if it’s handled tactfully. I guess it’s all in the delivery. A nun I know recently asked me to adjust the way I was doing something, and I wasn’t offended at all. I think we all need pointers on how to approach people so we get our points across without hurting feelings. If we’re not honest with each other, we’re just all living in a world of lies and fibs.

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  10. I have the complete opposite problem. I don’t know how NOT to be honest with people. I have tried to learn when to keep my mouth shut….I’m getting better at trying to distinguish what’s really not important to discuss with people, but I really don’t care in most cases what people feel about me anymore. When it comes to injustice, prejudice, meanness or anything like that, I’m totally not afraid to say what I think. I realized just the other day it’s why I don’t have many close friends and I’m very grateful for those because I’m a very difficult person to be around. 🙂

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    • Personally, I prefer people who are honest, even if they are bit blunt now and then. I think as long as you are deliberately trying to hurt people’s feelings, then you are perfectly justified in speaking up. It’s who you are, so why should you pretend not to be outspoken? You may not have as many friends, but those you do have are real, and value you for who you really are.

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  11. Well done! Honesty is always appreciated and will always be appreciated. Although sometimes when you are too honest you lose some people, you also keep them with you. I enjoyed reading this text. Greeting!

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  12. The best policy is to go bold and go strong with our lies, that way no one will believe them.

    On the other hand, it is refreshing to shock people with honesty, especially when it is about our-self. Nothing is so disarming as admitting we were wrong.

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    • I think admitting we are wrong is absolutely empowering to us, and confounding to others! As for the bold lies, I also agree. When I used to be a substitute teacher, I always told the kids that they needed to stay quiet, because I had such a “sweet soft voice” that they coudln’t hear me otherwise. That proclamation was always met with a puzzled silence. Which was exactly what I wanted!

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  13. This one is thorny as someone pointed out. When I took my mother for a hearing exam I had to be the one to tell her she’d lost 50% of her hearing in both ears. She was devastated. This, though, is a bit different than disagreeing and being honest–I call this personal integrity–about a topic such as politics. I’ve had to bite my tongue many times in social situations to avoid the fights commonly seen among friends and family regarding the current political state. It’s REALLY, REALLY HARD. I hate myself for not speaking up, yet, I know by doing so I’m avoiding a fight. It’s harder and harder to remain silent. I keep my political opinions to myself here on WP and on social media because I don’t want to invite negative and unproductive conversation. It’s a tough place to be in, anywhere. Oprah once said: “Do you want to be right, or do you want peace?” I still don’t have life’s answers. I’m sorry you never got those glasses, but you could order them, today. 🙂

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    • Yes, I could! But on the other hand, I no longer think I would look good in cat eye frames!
      And I agree with you about honesty. We can be honest without always choosing to speak up to those with whom we disagree. The sad thing is, I wish we lived in a society where we could say we disagree without inviting a huge fight! But we have come to a point where people go absolutely insane once they realize you don’t agree with them, always and on everything. Which means we either stay silent when we could like to speak up, or we surround ourselves with those who think exactly like us and are never forced to admit the value of differing opinions. Neither is a good choice, in my opinion. Whatever happened to simply saying, “I see it differently” or even “I disagree” rather than, “You’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why. And if you don’t see things my way, you’re an evil idiot!” It is very disheartening!

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    • Yes, I actually had an eye exam just last week because I truly did think my eyesight was failing (although I no longer want cat eye glasses.) And I found out that my eyesight is still very good. Who knew? Thanks for your comment!

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  14. Ann, take it from someone who HAD to wear those cat eye glasses – be glad you did not have to! Truly, there were few people who could actually pull off looking good in them! While I might have looked cute in them at the age of 7, I did not look cute in them a few years later. Have never liked them. And….that’s the truth. ; )
    As for being honest…..I agree, but we all have to know when to be honest, when to smudge it a little to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, and when to just keep quiet because sometimes keeping quiet truly IS the best way of being honest – at least to our own piece of mind. Years ago I had a friend email me, after viewing a photo of me, where she was telling me I really needed to start wearing lipstick because I looked “pale” in my photos, at that time. I have worn lipstick maybe five times in my life. Truly. I don’t like wearing lipstick. Never have. Never will. I did thank my friend for her suggestion and advice, but followed, honestly, that it was not something I would be doing because I did not like wearing lipstick. I was not angry. I did not mind her candor. However, she would not let it go. And, somehow, despite my assurances otherwise, she was convinced I was angry. I finally had to tell her, “I’m not angry. You are right. Friends can be honest with one another. I appreciate your comment, but the moment I said it was not for me is when you should have let the subject drop”. Instead she ended the friendship. I can laugh at it now, but at the time I was flummoxed. I was never angry, but she got that way because I politely thanked her but refused her advice. It takes all kinds. (Fyi, I was pale because I was going through some traumatic events at the time, and was actually low on iron, as it turns out. LOL)

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    • Wow! I think you are probably better off without that friend. It was one thing for her to tell you she thought you might look better with lipstick (although I think that since you didn’t ask for her opinion on that, she could have just stayed silent on the issue), but when you made it clear that you didn’t want to wear lipstick, she should have accepted your honest answer and move on. It sounds as if she might have had some control issues? But for whatever reason, I’m sorry you had to go through that.

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      • Thank you. Yes, and looking back, perhaps there had been some control issues. She chose to end the friendship about 5 1/2 years ago. There are times when I miss talking with her, but I also know that isn’t the kind of friend one needs in life. It was just such an odd thing to have happen. Thought you might enjoy that story. 🙂

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  15. As a writer by profession, over the years, I’ve become more brutally honest without realizing how harsh I sound sometimes. After years of getting rewrite notes and revision suggestions from editors and head writers, I’ve grown so accustomed to accepting direct comments and separating my emotional self in the process, I sometimes assume everyone else can handle that process. I think telling the truth allows us to build more real, honest and meaningful relationships, but it also involves more emotional strength.

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    • I can see why dealing with editor’s remarks for so long would toughen you up a bit, and how easy it would be to assume that others also have the ability to handle direct comments. I think honesty is the best way, but agree that it does require emotional strength. And also a bit of tact, especially when we know we’re dealing with someone who is a bit more fragile than we are. Very good point, thank you!

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  16. I know exactly what you mean, Ann. I’m working on a post that is a little different than this, about saying whatever you want unfiltered, which really is not a good idea. Tact and sensitivity are key. It can be a hard balance sometimes.

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    • It really can, especially when it’s a delicate subject. I think it’s a mistake to think that honesty has to equal blunt disregard for people’s feelings. It really doesn’t. It just means we avoid telling lies whenever possible and stick to the truth, especially about ourselves. But we should always be kind and sensitive, to other people’s feelings, I think.
      PS: You have no idea how glad I am that you are back in the blogging world!!!!!

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  17. I had to smile when I read about your wish for cat eye frames – they’re actually quite modern again and I myself have subclasses in that style. 😉 The funny thing is that I also yearned for glasses as a kid but when I had to get them at the age of 17 I wasn’t so happy about it anymore! 😂
    And yes, being honest but respectful and tactful at the same time seems to be the best policy. I’m often accused of being a bit too blunt with my opinions and try to better myself.

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    • Isn’t it funny how so many styles come back if we just wait long enough? And how the things we wanted as children don’t seem so attractive as we get older? I had a friend who read this post and she said she did the same thing…lied about her vision so she could get glasses. Only she was smart enough to lie in the eye test as well, so she actually got the glasses. Which she couldn’t see through properly, so it took her mom only a day or two to figure out what happened. She said she had lots of extra chores for a long, long time!

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  18. It can be hard to always be truthful. I try my hardest but sometimes yes to spare hurtful feelings I will say a little lie .. I think that’s not a bad thing just that we are put in certain positions at times to do so.

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    • Yes, sometimes in order to spare a person’s feelings, we do need to fudge on the truth a bit. I’ve done it myself, more than once. But I have to be careful that I’m not being dishonest about a huge thing, and make sure there is no chance they ever find out I was being dishonest. Because then they are hurt even more. It’s a tricky and difficult thing for sure! Thanks for the comment!

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