My mother died somewhat prematurely a few years ago. Suddenly, I found myself hearing how people had disliked her cooking and her recommendations of, say, roll mops.
For years my mother had used these friends as a weapon against me when I declined her offerings from the deli.
Politeness. The lies they told.
Those friends had provided a whip for my back in their desire to be polite. And short changed my mother by not being honest.
Of course, they had no idea that they were ammunition against me. Which is why their lies were so dangerous and destructive. We never know when something we say will be used. Where, when, or how.
This is why politeness can be so dangerous. If we tell lies in order to not hurt someone’s feelings, we are moral cowards. We can be truthful without being hurtful.
Learning to be honest without causing hurt does not take that much effort. It just takes some tact and self awareness. If we are tactful, we have done our best, discharged our responsibility, and not responsible for someone else being hurt in future.
If we are asked, Do you like this red dress? we can easily say that we prefer the blue one, etc. The same with home cooked food — ‘’Not as much as I enjoyed your blah blah blah’’’.
I recently visited my godmother on the spur of the moment. I always plan it with her. The sun was out after a lot of rain, I felt great, and the idea struck me. I had forgotten to have my cell phone with me.
My godmother was, apparently, pleased to see me. I was careful to watch her face for any hesitation. I saw none. Her son came home for lunch, and when I was alone for a moment, lectured me about how tired she gets. I felt uncomfortable, but soon forgot it as conversation started flowing.
In time I learned that my godmother had complained about my arrival to her son. Her politeness caused me to be hurt by her son. It was, however, my godmother’s dishonesty towards me that hurt most.
So, we need to cut out the lies of politeness. That doesn’t mean we start being rude. It means we express our honesty with tact and love. We say we prefer something else, or that we are tired, we can say that some food is not our taste. There are so many ways we can be truthful without causing hurt or offense.
Published in Know Thyself, Heal Thyself