If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

This post began rattling around in my head because I wanted to start an experiment in my life where I didn’t say anything negative or critical of anyone or anything for 30 days. I am a positive and supportive person, but it feels like a dedication to honesty often drags me into what feels like criticism, and I dislike that.

I spent a lot of years of my life as someone who needed everyone to like him. A lot of adults saw me as an oppositional, rebellious kid, but I just wanted approval. I would be nicer to some people than I wanted to be and I tried to be nicer to people than I felt like being. This was, ultimately, dishonest behavior.

In later years, I wanted to be a positive person, so I erred on the side of encouragement. I wanted to be helpful and supportive, but I look back at times where this felt disingenuous as I said things I did not believe. This was also, ultimately, dishonest.

When I realized this, it bothered me. I wasn’t sure what it looked like to be completely honest all the time, but after reading Sam Harris’s book Lying, I decided to try radical honesty. I still try to stick to it as much as I can. It’s not easy, and I do not know that I will ever approach Harris’s level of frankness and integrity.

Here’s the thing though.

I am trying to work out the line between being honest, and speaking poorly of someone or something else. I do not like how often this approach to life puts me in the position of saying something negative about other people and other things. I try to be very clear and say that something is just my opinion or perception, but I still dislike how much negativity this can bring into my day.

Is silence really better if you can’t say anything nice?

It’s a tough choice between saying something honest and critical and being dishonest but positive. I suppose the third option is just not saying anything at all but is this helpful to the person who is asking you? Doesn’t your silence tell them how you feel? What if they are about to make an objectively poor decision, or about to put their trust in someone who will not honor it? What about the unhealthy people out there who harm others despite not necessarily meaning to? What about the unhealthy people who harm others on purpose?

I dislike the amount of conflict being honest can bring into my life, but I struggle with the idea of being dishonest or lying by omission.

I am not sure how to reconcile these things.