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Nov 28, 2006

Response and Responsibility

Honesty Lately I've been thinking about friendship and honesty, and the potential power of what friends say to each other. And what occurs to me as of late is this set of distinctions:

Take 1
.  When a friend speaks and asks for an honest response, it doesn't mean that I need to say the first thing that pops into my head.  In fact, a honest and fully considered response may very well exclude the first thing that pops into my head. 

Friend: "Hey, Phil -- what do you think of my new car?"

Impulse answer
: "My God, you're a moron.  I can't believe you got this gas-guzzling ego-bomb."

Possible honest and considered response: "Well, Sean -- I'm really not sure. I mean, it's obviously gorgeous and if you let me drive it, I'll confirm my suspicion that it's an awesome frickin' machine.  At the same time...I'm not so sure this is the card I would have picked for you.  I mean... weren't we just talking last week about global warming?  That, and the fact that you might get laid off soon?  And did you check the latest Consumer Reports?  I'm just asking...

Take 2
.  Sometimes, though, the considered response would exclude something important and from the heart.  Even if it's not the complete answer, it might be something important for me to express (so that I can share the full range of what I'm feeling) and for my friend to hear (so that he gets all the data available to him) and for our friendship to need sharing:

Friend:  Hey, Phil -- guess what?  I ran into Heather last week at a party.  And for the first time since we quit living together, we had a civil and even fun conversation.  So, next thing you know, we made plans for lunch and it was really awesome.  I've gotta tell you, I had almost forgotten all the things that were so wonderful about her...

Impulse answer
: Are you out of your fucking mind?!

So anyway.  You get the idea. 

And if you have any clever hints on how to quickly determine which choice needs to be made at which time, feel free to comment.


image from here.

11:50 AM in Weblogs | Permalink


What a very timely post. I am also pondering honesty and my responsibility to be honest and what point do you just accept the bone-headed actions of people, however ill-advised they seem. Sometimes, you just can't get the message across, no matter how hard you try, and it's tough to see their foot stepping slowly onto the rake before it's inevitable ascent and collision with the head.

Posted by: Marianne | Nov 28, 2006 1:46:51 PM

... "Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind?..."

Posted by: Joseph H. Vilas | Nov 28, 2006 5:19:18 PM

Thanks, Joe -- for me it's often the "necessary" part that's in question.

And Marianne -- please consider this a blanket request/authorization that you let me know when I'm about to step on a rake. And thank you for reminding me of that fine Simpsons' episode ;-)

Posted by: Phil | Nov 28, 2006 7:55:01 PM

Yeah, that's the hard part. I see so few things as necessary. If it's more about unburdening myself than it is about actually helping the other person, then I'm pretty sure it's unnecessary, but it's still very hard to figure out. Life is unsure, right? But the saying does sometimes help me structure what I am going to say when I do say it. At least I'd like to think so.

Posted by: Joseph H. Vilas | Nov 29, 2006 1:25:43 AM