I have news to tell you. The email read.
Nora intuitively knew what this was about. She also knew what was going to be asked of her.
Figuring that a long-distance call would make things easier, she presses the quick dial key to Hana’s phone.
Hey honey! He proposed, didn’t he?
Nora smiled, recalling how Hana feared that because Joe was totally unromantic, he would not ask her the traditional way.
Congratulations! I’m so happy for you. So, how can I help? She mentally organized her trip back home knowing that it would mean the world to her best friend.
Will be my bridesmaid? The wedding is in September.
It was already January. Nora felt that it would be logistically difficult for her. She had a pressing family matter to attend to in three months.
Will April be too late for me to confirm? I just have to iron out an important matter.
April’s too late, Nor. You’ve got to decide now.
I’m sorry, sweetie. I can’t give you my assurance at this moment.
As she reflected on how to explain or compromise, Hana beat her to it.
I HATE YOU! How can you come home for Vie’s wedding but not come home for mine? Is she really more important to you? How could you do this to me? Goodbye, Nora!
Is honesty something to apologize for?
Dumbfounded, Nora remained oblivious to the click that concluded their conversation and their ten years of friendship.
Is honesty something to apologize for?
We’ve all been in Nora’s shoes. We are frequently asked questions like “Do you think I look good in this?”, “Is she cheating on me?”, “I made those cupcakes, do you like them?”
How often do you find your honesty challenged? When you think the dress your friend is wearing doesn’t flatter her, would you say so? When you know his partner is being unfaithful, would you have the heart to tell him? When the cupcakes truly taste like cardboard, would you admit they do?
Curiously, we tend to think that the outcome of honesty could be disastrous. When words are weighty, honesty seems to put one at risk of being unpopular. Being unpopular is cringe-worthy. So we veer towards safe answers; replies that are likely to yield instantly favorable reactions. Must honesty really have bounds?
Honesty stands firmly among other character strengths – curiosity, kindness and generosity, open-mindedness, perspective, loyalty, duty, fairness, leadership, self-control, caution, humility, bravery, perseverance, gratitude, optimism, zest. Everyone possesses a blend of these traits – strong points that we exude comfortably; but are vulnerable to over-emphasizing. Dubbed as the “golden hammer”, Abraham Maslow touted “It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Therefore our imperative is to pair strengths with suitable values; values being those desirable trans-situational goals that serve as guiding principles.
Still, it is possible to find that pursuing a certain combination of values is impossible. For instance, when one believes that success requires lying, one cannot pursue both honesty and success. Boosting one value will inevitably demote the other. Equivocally, some values are complementary. For example, when one believes trust entails honesty, one would be honest to build trust.
The non-existence of a definitive rule encompassing each unique scenario implies that the boundary of honesty (or any character strength for that matter) is wisdom. The intellectual and emotional skills that make up practical wisdom remain useless, however, in the absence of will. Merely knowing what to do is not enough; being willing to do what-to-do is also crucial. There’s a delicate interplay – values tap into our strengths; wisdom enables us to know when and how to appropriately apply them.
Honesty is a personal strength that has drawn friends and foes. Lying is just postponing the inevitable discovery of the truth. But I’ve also caused distress on far too many with my frankness. It is not always simplistic. Learning how to speak with tact and developing a propensity for assessing situations are now priceless and irrevocable to me.
How about you? What character strength dilemmas have you experienced?