Mainly it all comes down to intention.
I refer to myself as brutally honest, and I have a couple of friends that are the same way. If I ask for their opinion or their help, they will tell me the truth. It may be something I don’t want to hear. It may be the same advice they’ve given me before and an admonishment for refusing to listen. If they ask me for my opinion, I give it. Sometimes it may seem rude or insulting, but if all we hear is what we want to, we don’t grow.
Honesty isn’t about trying to hurt someone. It’s not about some sort of emotional sadism. There are people who intentionally antagonize others trying to elicit hate or hurt but mainly confrontation. This is not what brutal honesty is about, even if they start with a truthful statement. Brutal honesty is about helping someone move forward. Whether it’s about their appearance, their love life, their heath (physical or mental), it’s about giving an objective response.
Judging others is never the intention of my type of honesty. I have been judged plenty in my life. I’ve been judged for my mental illness issues, which include depression and anxiety. My appearance, my behavior and whether or not they’re appropriate for a specific place or time of day. Yes, mommy, I know my lipstick is too dark for the daytime… She has long since accepted my choices as far as that’s concerned. I’m not always “socially acceptable” and I’m okay with that. My appearance isn’t aesthetically pleasing to all people, and it doesn’t have to be. I don’t live my life for others. You shouldn’t either.
If, however, I ask someone how I look, I want them to tell me whether or not they like it. I prefer hearing things like “It’s not my style, but if that’s what you want to wear, go for it” rather than just, “You look fine.” Maybe I do just go for it, maybe I take a second look in the mirror. Either way, it’s an opinion I asked for, so lashing out rarely happens even if I feel offended.
There is, of course, the negative side of honesty. Sometimes it’s unintentional. One day someone said to me,”Wow you really do have more grey hair than me!” Now, I’ve always been self conscious about my grey hair, I started finding them at age 12. I felt so hurt that my immediate reaction was “Did you gain weight?” I lashed out intending to be hurtful because I wanted her to feel how I felt. Now, she didn’t mean to hurt me and I wasn’t being honest when I responded. When I feel insulted, I tend to react harshly. It’s something I’m working on. It’s something that given the volatile nature of the internet, we should probably all work on.
After my first post, someone commented negatively about my hair on my Facebook page. I got angry for a short while. My friends did as well. Many of them lashed back out at the person, as did I. I’ve since found a lot of humor in the entire ordeal. I love the way my hair looks in that picture. It doesn’t matter who else agrees. I am amused (and a little embarrassed) that I reacted so poorly. I’ve spent more time laughing at someone believing I wanted an opinion on my looks than I spent angry.
I’ve said never ask a question if you don’t want the answer. If you, like me, make random objective observations, be careful when and how you share them. They are not always welcome. Losing friends, hurting family members is not fun and coming back from it can feel impossible. So please, whether it’s a conversation with your sister or a comment to a stranger on social media, be careful because what you say may matter. Whether they’re over it in ten minutes or it stabs like a knife for years, words can hurt.
If I say something that feels insulting, please tell me. I know I come off as harsh and that’s why I call my honesty “brutal” but I do not try to be hurtful. Freedom of speech means you don’t get arrested for being an antagonistic asshole, but it does not mean I will allow you to direct it at me or anyone else I care about.
Be kind to each other, be honest when you can. Thank you for being here with me. I know it’s a choice to spend your time reading my thoughts and opinions and I appreciate your decision to do so.