Jan 052014
Honesty hurts

Honesty hurts – Photo by Fran Childress

I believe compassion is more important than honesty.

Do you think ‘honesty is the best policy’ when it comes to your relationships and friendships? If so, you are not alone as most relationship experts counsel couples and individuals with this sage advice. They encourage people to have open and honest communications with each other to maintain healthy bonds.

However, this advice may be taken out of context and actually damage otherwise healthy relationships. For example, we all have said things in an attempt to be completely honest with our partners only to regret it afterward (do I look fat in these jeans?). Being honest in some cases would warrant the response (yes). You cannot ‘unsay’ yes, therefore, when you are put in that situation again, you will lie and then question your integrity.

Many individuals believe these little ‘white lies’ are acceptable and harmless. Instead of answering what you believe to be truthful but hurtful, you can redirect the answer by saying you do not like how the jeans look on her (or him). Problem solved by blaming it on the jeans and not on the person, but what about other issues that could be more harmful to the relationship than just hurt feelings?

Honesty or Compassion?

There are circumstances when being honest can literally harm a person, such as confessing to a past affair (or any other previous wrongdoing). Bringing up a past affair while in a committed, monogamous relationship is a form of emotional betrayal. It still hurts.

Keeping this secret from your partner can cause you to have tremendous mental stress. To ease your own suffering, you may want to confess the infidelity to your partner. The result is that mental distress is removed from you and is then transferred to an innocent person. I believe this to be a selfish act. The adulterer now ‘can sleep at night’ whereas the innocent partner becomes mentally distressed from knowing the truth needlessly. The only good thing to come from this is the partner’s enlightenment, but at a devastating price if the partner is mentally unstable.

The mental state of the partner should be taken into consideration before being brutally honest. Individuals who suffer from mental disorders/illnesses need compassion before being told of distressful news. When a person is in a ‘dark’ place, any bad news can push her (or him) over the edge. How can this be productive?

You don’t have to lie, but you don’t have to be completely honest when the only outcome is hurting your partner.

Ongoing and/or current extramarital affairs can place both partners at a higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). I do not recommend withholding current affair confessions from your partner.