Kindness vs Truth
“Authenticity is about being true to who you are,
even when everyone else wants you to be someone else."
Sitting with some friends recently talking late into the night the conversation turned to relationships and the tricky balance between Kindness and Truth. Before I go on though, how about taking a moment and answering the question yourself - what would you prefer Kindness or Truth?
My initial thought was that I would like Kindness but then further discussion revealed the motivation for the Kindness and the manifested form of it.
"I like to be kind to people" someone said
"Because I don't like to hurt or upset people"
"So you would withhold some of the truth so they won't be upset?"
"Why? Is their happiness more important than yours?"
Is other people's happiness more important than yours?
When minor things annoy you about someone would you rather not tell them and hence avoid their reaction and just get on with things instead?
Do you believe that you are more able to deal with any emotional upset than they are and hence you'd rather 'suck it up' than create a scene?
"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved."
The conversation progressed further until we got to,
"I hate a lack of authenticity in others and I'm especially wary of it in myself"
"But aren't you being in-authentic by holding back the truth and being kind?"
"There's a fine line..."
Indeed there is.
But I would say a balance - between truth and kindness. Moral absolutes are hard - real life requires a balance between What's Right, What's Good and What's Fitting.
Is it Right to tell the truth? Yes - but consider the scenario of living in Berlin at the height of the Second World War - your neighbours come to you and ask if they can hide out in your attic as they are Jewish. Compassion and caring are good so you say yes. But soon the SS come to the door and ask "Are there any Jews hiding in your attic?"
Are you willing to lie now?
A girlfriend tries on a new pair of jeans and asks - "Does my bum look big in this?"
The truth is YES but to speak it bluntly is to be mean.
Kindness might require a frown and a not so indiscreet "Mmmm..."
Truth doesn't need to be spoken just felt.
"There is no need to talk, because the truth of what one says lies in what one does."
Bernard Schlink 'The Reader'
So, the moral of the story?
"Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it."
There is no perfect right way. There is intention to be kind and speak the truth then there is the dance. The dance of life.
"Walk in the rain,
stop along the way,
go on field trips,
find out how things work,
say the magic words,
trust the universe."
In peace and love always.