Honesty: Still the Best Policy?

Honesty: Still the Best Policy?

“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”
~Mark Twain

I love forthright and honest people who tell it like it is. I don’t want to have to wonder tomorrow if you meant what you said today. I don’t want to have to read you – I want you to be a talking book. I like it that way. And if you ask for my opinion, you’re going to get it good, bad or ugly. I’m not very good at editing my honesty. I’m just not wired that way.

When I was a young parent I would listen to the problems of my children and consider my response. It seemed that at least 99.99% of the time the best advice I could give was the platitude we grew up hearing; “Honesty is the best policy.”

Is it? Yes, telling the truth is the best way to remember what we said! Yes, telling the truth makes us feel good because it respects the child in us who knows we should tell the truth. I want to tell the truth but I really don’t want to hurt your feelings. What do we do when the truth has the potential to hurt?  Are there occasions when something less than honesty is required?

If we’re going to be honest and kind, we need a vocabulary. Some ideas:

  • I’m not really in the right space for that. [Translation: I don’t want to go.]
  • That doesn’t feel right to me. [Translation: No!]
  • I’m fine, really. [I don’t feel like talking about it.]
  • We don’t dance to the same tune.  [This relationship isn’t going anywhere.]
  • It’s not you. It’s me. [It’s you.]

I’d like to think it’s easy – tell the truth and that’s that. Even though I prefer to hear the truth, even it if hurts, I’m not so sure I should be handing it out indiscriminately. But how much can we edit the truth before it’s not the truth any more?

Are you honest in every situation? Does your honesty have an edit button? What’s your policy?

photo credit: Ell Brown

About The Author


I love figuring it all out and finding I was wrong, changing my mind, learning that I can get excited again about something I thought I was moving away from; changing life-long habits. Mostly I love my husband and my children; watching us all grow through the changes of life, family reunions and celebrations with a good bottle of port and a shrimp ring.