You Can’t Handle The Truth: When You Should Keep It Real And When You Can Lie A Little
I just finished reading Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” a New York Times bestseller about a wife that goes mysteriously missing. **Spoiler Alert** Throughout the course of the book, you learn that her husband is not as a good as he seems, and that her marriage is in a shambles, which becomes clear after reading her diary. From jump, it seems like her husband is a textbook LifeTime wife-murderer. Then it’s revealed that the diary is a fake. Basically, right when you think you know what’s going on, you don’t know who to trust in the story.
That’s a scary concept: how can you know who is real and who is fake? How many white lies, half-truths, and omissions are people keeping from each other? Can you ever really trust what someone says? To be honest I don’t know if I could handle knowing all there is to know about a person, there are some truths I don’t want to know. But part of our human nature is curiosity about the unknown and we often times have difficulty accepting it, which is why Jack Nicholson’s classic line from A Few Good Men seems to fit perfectly when it comes to keeping it real – sometimes, “you can’t handle the truth!”
Sometimes, radical honesty is absolutely necessary. Telling your guy friend that you’re really not into him before he catches feelings, being up front with coworkers about your workload, letting your family know that you can’t deal with their dysfunction – those are the times when being blunt and upfront serves you well. For one thing, it involves you making the best decision for yourself (always good). For another, it keeps people’s expectations in check. Telling the truth in those circumstances usually has positive outcomes. Nobody ever has to guess where you stand on an issue because you let them know what it is and what it ain’t.
On the other hand, letting all of truth out of the honesty jar can be a step too far. There are some situations where ‘truthiness’ , the term Stephen Colbert created that is defined by Urban Dictionary as “the quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts,” is crucial to your survival. When your lover asks you what you are wearing right now, you don’t always have to tell him ‘hole-y granny panties that used to be white.’ If your sister asks you if her boyfriend is cute, just nod up and down and say ‘mmmm’ – no need to tell her that her man looks like a swamp donkey. Saving face is not always bad, especially if it’s not going to harm anyone.
Keeping it overly real has the tendency to go wrong at some point, as the uppercut bus driver is finding out all too well. I just try to make sure what I say is honest enough to keep me from getting struck down by lightening. Telling it like it is can put you in hot water sometimes, but like the old adage says, honesty is the best policy.