As a person whose life straddles some major tensions and divides, I often tend to ponder the nature of those tensions and why I happen to be on both sides of the divide, trying to hold the two sides together within myself despite the stresses and strains of life. Among the most frequent and troublesome of those tensions in my life insofar as it relates to others is a a strong tension that exists in my life in the way that I behave with others and also in the way that I would wish for them to behave with me. It is a very difficult tension and one that is a very consistent problem for me in communication with others, and one that leads me to ponder often on how I am ever to resolve it in my life and relationships.
One of the poles of my personality in this regard is a fervent concern with honesty. Plenty of examples about a possibly embarrassing degree of personal honesty could be given, although I would rather not give them here. This honesty and candor extends far beyond the levels of what most people are comfortable with, and far beyond what most people know how to handle. I know precisely where the origins of this honesty come from, in a complicated mix of a demanding moral code, a horrific struggle with boundaries, and far too much to keep inside of me successfully. The only question is how it is going to come out. When this is added to a very self-critical and intensely reflective analytical sort of mind, and the materials for rather blunt and embarrassing candor are readily present.
The other pole is a pole of extreme sensitivity and kindness to others. This pole tends to lead to a lot of anxious and hypervigilant concern for the well-being of others as well as for understanding where they are coming from. What is very blunt text in person is much more restrained, restrained by my natural caution as well as by my concern for others and also a concern of the difficulty in dealing with delicate matters face to face, where one can read body language and hear tone, and respond accordingly. This understanding, which sometimes surprises others in its extent, is something that forms an important constraint on my behavior, and also happens to make life pretty interesting.
There are many cases in life where these two tendencies tend to create tension. For example, we may be around someone whose company we do not necessarily like, but they are nice enough that we do not want to hurt them by being unpleasantly honest, faced with a tension of either being kind and leading someone on (whether intentionally or not) or being and feeling harsh and cruel to someone who does not deserve to be treated harshly. This sort of dilemma happens more often than I would like, and I have trouble trying to navigate, or encourage others to navigate, this sort of dilemma. Ideally, one would want people to be both honest and kind, where if there is unpleasant truth that needs to be told the open and obvious admission of one’s struggle would tend to cut against the harshness of the truth one had to tell. It does not seem as if others tend to adopt that approach, instead acting so frustrated with a situation that their cruelty seems even more heightened when the truth finally and belatedly comes out, and even then there is usually a fair amount of dishonesty that goes along with the supposedly “honest” truthtelling.
Truth and kindness need not be opposed, though. Acting in a kind and considerate manner towards others depends often on accurate information. Likewise, if we convey to others our own nature accurately, they can act kindly as well as honestly towards us. Truth, in the form of open and honest communication, can help situations to be resolved early on before a lot of frustrations and problems have built, when problem areas are even being approached. This requires a proactive approach to truthtelling that seems unusual in this world, but being unusual has never been all that unusual as far as I am concerned. Likewise, kindness and understanding allows us to recognize or at least appreciate the perspective of others, which makes truth easier to deal with when the inevitable difficulties come between people.