This I Believe

Laura - Grand Rapids, Michigan
Entered on April 18, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
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Teenage years are prime drama years. As a senior, I’m a veteran of relational problems and miscommunications between friends, and what I’ve developed over the last four years is a confirmation of the old belief “Honesty is the best policy.”

I am not someone who avoids conflict. If you have a problem, come fix it, and I’ll try to return the favor. I believe that handling conflict as quickly and honestly as possible is 1000% more effective than tiptoeing, even if it doesn’t end happily. If you can’t fix it by telling the truth, perhaps it isn’t worth fixing.

As with everything, though, if handled improperly, honesty can do more harm than good. It’s all in the delivery. In the seventh grade, my gang of ladies decided that we’d had enough of one of our number. In an attempt to change her, we listed all of her undesirable traits in a note; how selfish she was, how mean, how conceited, how loud and obnoxious she could be, and most of all, how ridiculous she acted around males (a mortal sin). Then we signed it on the bottom, like the Declaration of Independence. We delivered this note to her, and needless to say, it did not go over well. She was crushed, and the only thing that changed was that we were no longer her friends.

There are ways to make the truth deliver less of a blow and instead bring harmony; harmony should be, after all, your goal. Our first mistake was that we were too direct. Honesty shouldn’t be misinterpreted as blatancy. What we gave her was raw, with no explanation and in the end was tactless. Secondly, We completely forgot to think about how we would feel if the situation were flipped. Empathy should stay your hand in any confrontation, no matter how upset you feel at the time. Lastly, but most importantly, we were hypocrites. In almost every circumstance, the blame is shared between the parties, no matter if it’s 50/50 or 15/85.

We’re in the last few months of our senior year, and I still can’t comfortably look her in the face. I sometimes wonder, had we found a less thoughtless method of conveying our grievances, how we would feel about each other today. I wonder what she thinks when she sees me in the hallway, and I wish I could apologize for my actions. Is it ever too late for honesty?

Directness, frankness, honesty—All used with discretion, can lead to a better, happier, less regret-filled existence. I feel like honesty is what separates adults from adolescents. When we can discover that we have the guts to admit when we are wrong, and take responsibility for our actions, we find a new level of communication. Which is key, because we as humans are creatures of communication. It’s what I believe.