Is honesty the best policy?

August 26, 2014

Is honesty the best policy? Some of my wonderful readers and friends have told me how much they appreciate the honesty of my blog posts. It struck me that their acknowledgment might imply that the kind of honest observations I make aren’t all that common. And it also made me think about the role of honesty in our world.

Honesty is hard for some people to take.

Especially if it doesn’t agree with what they think. Shooting the messenger isn’t uncommon.

Look. I am not everyone’s cup of tea. And I’m ok with that. I’m an observer of life who sometimes enjoys satire and snark. I’m direct and I speak what I think. It’s never mattered if someone else agrees with me or not; everyone is absolutely welcome to their own opinion and if it differs from mine? It doesn’t matter.

I just think it’s important that we all stand for something.

But we don’t all have to stand for that something in our writing. I read a whole bunch of blogs that focus on fashion, thrifting, food, health, fitness and all aspects of life. Or product reviews. Some of them are meant to provide income for the women who write them. Their blogs are not the right venue for their opinions because opinions don’t fit their mission. And strong opinions might impact their livelihoods.

That fact takes nothing away from my enjoyment of them or their blogs.

Me? I like starting conversations. I like thinking and making others think. And I like to read blogs that do that, too. To the extent my blog does that, I’m proud.

quote+lucille+ballHonesty is a good conversation starter.

We live in a world where opinions are more polarized than ever before. Some people are completely convinced of the correctness of their point of view, as if they hold the objective truth. That makes me laugh. There is, of course, no single opinion that is the ONE TRUE FACT. There’s only our experience of an event or situation.

It is, in fact, entirely possible to disagree and still have a conversation. In fact, a more interesting conversation than we’d have if everyone agreed. That is, as long as one side isn’t so wedded to their point that they get emotional and can’t converse courteously.
Conversation, by the way, is different from debate. Debate is supposed to be persuasive. I don’t often debate because I prefer conversation that digs into why people feel the way they do. To me, that’s what’s most interesting. Not the opinion itself.

honestyHonesty can be threatening.

Life is full of little fictions and agreements we make not to talk about the hard stuff. But I think the hard stuff is the meat of life.

Still, many people don’t like the fictional foundations of their lives shaken. That’s ok. It’s a big world and there’s room for everyone.

At the recent conference I hung out with a bunch of opinionated women who weren’t afraid to speak up about any topic. Sometimes pro and sometimes con. It’s probably no surprise that many of those women have already become treasured friends because of the discussions we had at that conference. Do we agree on everything? No. But we do agree on one thing: that opinions are good, regardless of what they are. That discussion makes a lively friendship. And a way lot of laughter.

There’s no call to action here. Except maybe to think about the role of honesty in our own lives and examine the extent to which it threatens our view of the world. And maybe, just maybe, expand our world view a bit to include other points of view. Or at least make it okay for others to hold differing viewpoints without making them “wrong.” Let honesty be the best policy.

honestyOh, and if I’m not your cup of tea? I know that. Call it being psychic or call it intuitive, I don’t care which. But I do know. And that’s ok. As we used to say in the South, makes no nevermind to me. It’s a big world with room for all of us.

59 comments on “Is honesty the best policy?
  1. Carol Graham says:

    O K . What do you want to talk about — I do a great devil’s advocate. And I have strong opinions – makes no matter to me if people don’t like them. So, what ‘cha wanna talk about? I could probably throw some good topis out there and I KNOW you could as well. What FUN!

  2. I like reading your posts. I agree wholeheartedly that agreement is not necessary to conversation. As simple as that sounds, I’ve not found it to be a common practice when folks don’t know each other. Oh well. Carry on.

  3. People need to remember that they can choose to engage, or walk away if they don’t care for the conversation or the person’s point of view! Wouldn’t it be a boring world if we all thought and acted the same.

  4. There’s a difference between being honest and promoting conversation and being deliberately provocative and antagonistic. Your blog is always honest without sensationalizing. I love a good debate, and enjoy people who are opinionated without being rigid. Some of my closest friends feel the complete opposite of me on many topics!

    • Thank you for this. You know, I struggle sometimes with the after effects of vulnerability (a byproduct of honesty) but the fact that you believe I can hit the right note here means a lot.

  5. Ann says:

    I’m with you!Honesty is the best policy though I have been shot down in flames for expressing myself more times than I care to remember…there seems to be two rules,one for ones self and a separate one for others!Many people only want to hear their own opinion echoed or validated and though they may “say” they value honesty…woe betide somebody who disagrees with them or thinks a little differently….then of course there is Mr.Judgemental who believes that cutting someone else down is perfectly okay in the name of honesty.Moral of the story ,by all means be honest but remember to accept others honesty as well… and remain respectful.

  6. kim tackett says:

    I love this: I prefer conversation that digs into why people feel the way they do. To me, that’s what’s most interesting. Not the opinion itself.

    We all have our own version of the truth. And you’re right, the “why” is perhaps the most interesting part of all.

  7. Ann says:

    ps.Carol…speaking in general…nothing to do with you! You always get the balance right.

  8. I enjoy your posts, Carol, because of your honesty. It is refreshing, and I know I can always rely on you to speak your truth without belittling others’ opinions. You are someone who is authentic, and that seems to be more rare these days.

    To me the makings of a true friendship requires two things: trust and honesty. In this crazy world we live in that’s not always easy to find. Fortunately I’ve had 2 friends since I was 10 years old, and we’ve lived through the ups and downs of life together, always telling each other the truth. I feel blessed.

    Loved this post.

    • Thanks, Cathy. You raise such a good point–trust. When someone betrays your trust, it’s the end of a friendship. That’s happened to me a few times in my life and it is always a painful reckoning. You are so lucky to have your dear friends!

  9. donna says:

    I LOVE your place on the web and it is because of your honesty! You tell it like it is, but you are nice about it. I enjoy dialog and discussion and am not too fond of debate…unless it is a HUGE moral issue for me :). Even then, it is always best to listen to the opposing views. My mind really was changed on a few key issues I thought I would never change. But listening to someone else calmly and kindly explain to me why they believed the opposite was illuminating. And if I didn’t change my views, it was enlightening to hear the reasoning behind someone elses thoughts.
    Truth be told though, I spent a decade of my life criticizing and condemning so many people because in my arrogance I just *KNEW* I was *RIGHT*! Sigh….I have very forgiving friends!
    And about not being everyone’s cup of tea…a friend of mine put it this way: I am an acquired taste! And I am so okay with that :0).

  10. Roz Warren says:

    Carol I always get a kick out of your posts — maybe it’s the honesty? Who knows. Whatever it is, it’s clearly working for you.

  11. Ellen Dolgen says:

    I love your blogs….they are the real deal! BTW if we all agreed all of the time the world would be a dull place. I have strong opinions, however, I love to hear other people’s take on things as I learn along the way. I wish that we could get back to the time where people could disagree and still respect and enjoy each other. Seems we have lost this sensibility and respect. Makes me so sad :<( Great post………thank you!

  12. Well, you know I have to add my 2 cents worth or experience. I agree with you completely , and I am also, as you know, very open and honest. But not always. Not when I think it might hurt someone, or embarrass someone…then I hold back which I think is not so much dishonesty, as it is using discretion. And it may not always be honesty I practice, but candor. There lines can blur and the shades of gray are many. As open candid people, we have to ready for the reaction. I am especially sensitive to this as a recovering alcoholic-sometimes I tell without being asked, sometimes I don’t. But I ALWAYS make the decision to share my point of view and experiences if I think it will help the listener broaden their knowledge base, if not on the spot, later, after they have had time to process my words. I do love your thoughts, your insight and your responses– you do good work with this blog, Carol.

  13. I have such a hard time in terms of people opening their minds and realizing that it’s ok, even good for others to be different. One of the main reasons this Bostonian has and will never adjust to living in the Midwest is because of that. Here you’re Christian or you’re wrong, you’re conservative or you’re wrong, you’re republican or your wrong, you’re heterosexual or you’re wrong. . .. I was once, early on, at a neighbor’s pool party and got into a conversation about diversity. I was explaining its value. I said something about how little there is here, how everyone is the same and thinks the same and many guests said “yes, that’s why we love it here”. That was my first clue that I’d never belong,

    • Wow. I get that. I’d feel the same way.

    • Funny, when I’m home in my beloved Midwestern home town, I feel like the most liberal person in the room. When we lived in So Cal, I felt like the most conservative person in the room. The reason I love writing so much is because I have the chance to be clear with my thoughts. It’s often very difficult to speak my mind in face-to-face situations, whereas when I write I can take a step back and process before I comment. Maybe it’s a cop out, but I think it’s a skill to learn how to do it well in social situations and still keep your friends. Working on that always.

  14. My husband and I used to have a running disagreement about what was more important – honesty or kindness? He believes you should always be honest – I say not at the expense of kindness. Would you really tell someone you thought their baby was ugly?

  15. Lana says:

    Having a lively conversation with a group of people with differing viewpoints, but an ability to listen and discuss – one of the greatest pleasures in life! I love your blog for many reasons, but your refreshing honesty is high on the list.

  16. Lisa Froman says:

    Yes…I like to see people express themselves. What I don’t like (because I’m a Libra) is confrontational debate. I live in the grey and like to hear all sides.
    I enjoy your blog….lots of variety. And I think it’s great how supportive you are!

  17. Janie Emaus says:

    I agree. Honesty is the best. And we can’t all think the same. Just as we aren’t all attracted to the same type of person.

  18. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    I enjoy your posts, Carol, and I admire your honesty. I like the idea of a spirited debate now and then, but too often emotions take over and it veers off into dangerous territory — especially on social media.

  19. Risa says:

    I just saw the Monty Python reunion show (on film): One Down, Five to Go! In that spirit, I remember the “I didn’t come here for an argument” bit. Silly, but that’s what happens sometimes when an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object! After I arrived at what the wonderful Suzanne Braun Levine calls the “F*ck you Fifties,” I’ve been better able to choose how and when I engage with people who have different views on things that are important to me. Honesty is actually a relief sometimes-it cuts down on those “coulda, woulda, shoulda” moments that play over and over in my head when I miss an opportunity to just say it! Love you for starting this dialogue.

  20. One of my biggest pet peeves is folks who think that just because your opinion is different, it’s wrong. This is a refreshing rundown of how we all might approach honesty and honest differences of opinion. A much appreciated post!

  21. Karen says:

    I read a book years ago called “Radical Honesty,” about the importance of speaking your truth…and being there to pick up the pieces if your truth happened to hurt others. This has always made so much sense to me.

    I know that I’m opinionated and sometimes overly blunt. And I know that sometimes I hurt people’s feelings…but it’s never on purpose. I feel you’re much the same–and I think it’s a good thing for people like us to continue speaking our truth. Keep on keeping on, sister!

  22. Linda Roy says:

    I agree. With all of it. I’m the same way, and I’m not everybody’s cup of tea either. But I think honesty and truth and getting a valuable dialogue going is important in life. Complacency can be dangerous. I think although honesty can be threatening to some, the majority of people, whether they admit it or not, appreciate honesty. It’s refreshing.

  23. Another provocative message, Carol. I used to lie about my age – but I don’t anymore because I’m proud to be alive and kicking at this great age.

  24. Ruth Curran says:

    Oh my, you struck a chord… How much do we reveal; when do we become vulnerable; and is there a cost to credibility? Big things to wrestle with and you, in your usual beautiful style, took this topic on with characteristic grace, dignity, and just the right amount of honesty! Thanks Carol!

  25. Lux says:

    aw, honesty is such a lonely word so the song goes. i’ve also ranted about the truth before. thanks for posting something like this which speaks to most of us.

  26. The rule I try to live by is “Is it useful?” Not all honesty is useful. It might be truth, but will the person on the other end of it be better for it? Often the answer is no. I think it’s important to remember that we all have our own truth. It might not match someone elses, but it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. More than one truth can exist at one time. A great, thought provoking post.

    • Yes, useful is a good test. It is very true that we can inadvertently hurt others. Or on purpose, which I have seen some of in my recent life and just BLOWS me away with its insanity. “First, do no harm” is such a good rule of thumb.

  27. Wendys Hat says:

    Great thoughts! I can’t help myself

  28. The capacity for dialogue and being able to agree to disagree require a level of maturity and self-confidence. Not to mention, intellect. I always enjoy reading essays that make me think, make me ask existential questions. So for that, thank you, Carol! Now about (the concept of) honesty. I find that my definition has absolutely evolved through the years. As a young, idealistic female, I stuck to ‘honesty is the best policy’ without giving it much thought. However, as I got older, I leaned more towards something that got debated heavily on Ally McBeal. (Yes, I’m a fan). I think it was John Cage who said that honesty is not necessary if it has the sole purpose of absolving one’s guilt and in the process just hurting the other person. I think there’s something valuable in that that’s worth considering. And then of course Dr. Gregory House also always says that ‘everybody lies’, so, there you go! —- from your blogger and tv junkie friend, Joy 😉

  29. Thanks for an insightful post. I tend to be straight-up honest too, although I know I can lean toward the hurtful side at times and lack sensitivity. Still, overall I feel it’s better to be honest and straightforward. I feel people appreciate knowing where they stand with me. More is accomplished.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.