When Did Honesty Become an Excuse to Be Mean?

The word “honest” is used in strange ways these days. When someone wants to say something cruel, they justify saying it by using honesty as an excuse. “I just have to be honest.”

Those who practice “radical honesty” often seem to use that to say whatever mean thing comes into their heads. Do those same people also say all the good things that come into their heads? It doesn’t seem like it. To me radical honesty would involve telling people I see how much I like how they’ve done their hair or how beautiful their skirt is.

I see it in book reviews a lot too, where a reviewer tears a book and its author apart and then says they are just being honest. Even if you don’t like something, there are nice ways to “be honest” about it.

Honesty cuts both ways, in my opinion. If you want to be so honest that you’re going to tell someone that their artwork is childish, then you also have to be honest enough to tell someone when you are jealous of them and wish that you had their drive.


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About Ambaa Choate

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Mr.Notyou

    I’ll come clean, I’m guilty of this myself. Albeit people already see me as a sarcastic trickster figure whose words have as much weight as the air they rest upon. However I also find myself on the other end of the spectrum by complementing people. I guess deep down I’m a mean spirited person but I agree that just saying ‘i’m being honest’ is not an excuse to say mean things.

    • Ambaa

      Ask me how I learned this? :) I too have been guilty of it and finally noticed this unfortunate pattern!


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