Sunday, 18 March 2012

Honesty's Deceits

'Tact looked at truth in vain,
She knew her tongue would end in pain.'

These are the first two lines of a poem a  younger version of myself wrote a few years ago.  I shalln't reveal the rest. These lines are fairly poor. Not too subtle. I promise it only got worse.

Were I able to travel back in time now and speak to myself then would I, then, tell myself that? Would I proffer my harsh, but honest, critique, potentially crushing anymore attempts towards a poetic tendency? Or would I be encouraging and smile, telling myself  'That's pretty good you know! Keep going with it.'

I think it would be the latter.

The truth of the phrase 'honesty is the best policy,' ironically, I occasionally question . This may sound odd. I do not mean, of course, in the sense of its moral value.I will stress now, lying is NOT good. No no no. Truth is good. Yes yes yes.  Even playing a game of 'Cheat' can be, for me, a total guilt-inducing nightmare.

But where my qualms lie is with the moral complications being completely, perhaps brutally, honest can unveil. It seems the phrase 'but, I'm just being honest,' is sometimes held up as some sort of unquestioned moral epicentre. It tends to come after a blunt criticism of another. Can maintaining honesty at all costs justify breaking another moral code? That of simply... being nice to other people? The moral compass seems strangely misguided at times.

There seems this great sense that telling someone a harsh truth may help them in the long run. In some cases, if it will certainly change something/the person for the better, then yes, of course, I suppose it must be done. In the case of my poetry efforts, a level of criticism would probably have done me some good. I know for a fact I would be a terrible creative writing teacher.My students would maybe be happy, but never successful. It is fortunate, therefore, this is not my job.This inability to criticise for the better is a flaw I certainly possess.

But telling someone a truth which will probably achieve little, other than ruin someone else's day, however, seems wrong. Tact, or an avoidance of saying the absolute truth, must always be favourable surely? The phrase 'ignorance is bliss' exists for a reason.

I do think my younger self was on to something. I think some people would disagree and think my argument stupid. They would probably tell me so, too. If I'm honest though, I really wish they wouldn't. 

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