In a social world, each of us are quite familiar with the balancing act that is The Social Contract.
This contract is what we universally sign up for when we become friend, lover, sibling, or spouse, to name just a few of our more important relationships.
Our more general social contract is essentially the golden rule, ‘Do onto others as you would have them do onto you”, (let’s disregard the fallacies within this phrase for the purpose of this post) and this is fine if we limit it to door holding, old lady streets crossings, and birthday wishes etc. But I think we reach a point of diminishing returns where kindness can lead to enabling self-sabotaging rationalizations or learned helplessness in situations where a good hard kick of the truth would go a long way towards self-improvement and emotional growth.
But the truth can hurt… a lot. There’s no denying this. The truth forces us to face aspects of our personality and lives that we would ideally rather ignore, and most do. Humans are essentially a species that have evolved to take the path of least resistance, and to blindly follow pleasure and avoid pain.
The older we get the more truth we try to run from (pain), the more regrets we pile up in our minds (pain), and the more we start reducing our risk tolerance to avoid all of consequences that might occur (pain, pain, pain). But within the vulnerability of risk, lies the greatest sources for personal pleasure; achievement, experience and love.
Yet what do many of us do… find a group of people that agree with all of our opinions, are scared to tell us when they disagree, and never ever push towards the reality of who we have the potential to be.
I think we all need to be a little more honest in our relationships, to shine a light on the lives of those we care about when someone is playing it too safe and letting their potential turn to dust, or just being a douche. Because maybe your opinion is spot on, maybe its dead wrong, but these conversations need to be had.
Instead, we sacrifice the awkwardness of these critical moments in life to avoid risking friendships and engaging in difficult conversations; because its easy to gossip of the follies of others, but to actually make a difference in someone’s life, maybe that’s too much responsibility for us.
I know I personally do this all the time, so I’m certainly not immune to this mistake. You just get to a point where sometimes trying to shine this light of truth becomes more like a flame thrower on a hay stack, and then you just become the dickhead who keeps telling people what the “need to do with their lives”, and even I hate these people. Its a tightrope for sure.
Yet the fact does remain, without facing the truth, no matter how radically painful it might be at times, true personal growth is impossible. Without being forced to face our demons, we’ll all “happily” run away from it for the rest of our lives, pretending everything is fine. But fast forward 40 years and I’m sure the house that bullshit built will come a tumbling town.
If we surround ourselves with yes men and mindless cheerleaders tooting our horn for us at the exact moment we need to pull the car off the road, nobody grows, and instea everyone quietly moves along together up the escalator to no where.
Now with all that being said, an important question presents itself:
How do we all make an effort to have more honest relationships without sabotaging those connections?
For example, since its probably the most common example of misguided kindness, lets take weight gain. At a certain point, we all need to be told if we are letting ourselves go and need to lose some weight. This simple and quick conversation from someone you love or respect is a necessary reminder that just because you are pretend that your additional 35 pounds isn’t noticeable… it really is.
That’s not to say that this fact should be brought up with every meal or social occasion, but in my opinion, I will take 3 friends that will be honest with me and have a vested interest in my true happiness than 100 friends that tell me what they think I want to hear.
If we are all honest with each other for a moment here, nobody on the planet actually has a friend who is happier when they are overweight. Sooooo why do we protect them from the truth? It’s clearly not for their benefit, we know they’re miserable about their body image, but we refuse to help them out because we don’t want to be the bad guy. We don’t want to risk that friendship.
Again, we are self-serving creatures who are avoiding pain (possible confrontation) at the cost of someone else’s happiness. If you don’t believe me, google the global obesity numbers… they speak for themselves. And no, it has nothing to do with McDonald’s
Sam Harris wrote an interesting essay called “Lying”, and in it he says when we shy away from telling our friends and family the truth, we disrespect them by taking the ability to make better decisions out of their hands. We hide our real feelings by masking them with platitudes or silence in public and yet discussing the truth when they cannot hear it.
Everyone loves to be told positive things about themselves, and we could all use a healthy level of this but the truth cannot be escaped, and this is a point I think everyone forgets or just refuses to admit.
As I mentioned, this is something that I struggle with as well, because there are very few people that you can be honest with, because people don’t want to grow, they want to escape and exist without hassle. They just want to avoid the mirror until they reach the top of the escalator.
In the end, the only person we can truly be honest with is ourselves; which is always the hardest part. So we can start there for now, but remember to be kind to yourself.
Just as we all make mistakes, we all have the right to make tomorrow better.