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Is Kindness Wiser Than Truth?

 
 
Dosed
 
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 10:35 pm
What do you think?

I recently had an experience where I asked someone to be brutally honest with me, and when I received that honesty, my thoughts were "ouch, that really hurt...did I really want that?"

As much as I'd love to believe the idea that "sometimes kindness is wiser than truth," I still feel that truth is to be valued above everything else. That way there are no blinders to reality in the face of emotion.

So I ask you, what do you think?
 
GoshisDead
 
  3  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 10:39 pm
@Dosed,
Its possible that the height of wisdom is to know when to be kind and when to express truth.
Dosed
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 10:42 pm
@GoshisDead,
I think I disagree. Who are we to "be kind?" Who are we to think that the emotional distress we may cause is not worth the value of truth? Who are we to blind another person from reality?
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 10:48 pm
@Dosed,
Most people have no desire to hear the truth, we all generally prefer to live in our own little worlds believing our own versions of truth.
Exactly what is the truth anyway? Is the truth itself something more than our own opinion of truth?
Jebediah
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 10:48 pm
@Dosed,
Dosed wrote:

I think I disagree. Who are we to "be kind?" Who are we to think that the emotional distress we may cause is not worth the value of truth? Who are we to blind another person from reality?


A little subtlety goes a long way. Most people can take a hint. The truth can be communicated without saying it, and saying it sometimes makes people feel a way they shouldn't, rationally.
0 Replies
 
A Lyn Fei
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 11:01 pm
@wayne,
wayne wrote:

Most people have no desire to hear the truth, we all generally prefer to live in our own little worlds believing our own versions of truth.
Exactly what is the truth anyway? Is the truth itself something more than our own opinion of truth?


Truth is subjective, especially when it comes to the opinion of a person. That is not the point, I feel here, though. If someone is honest about their feelings with you, it might hurt. I would never disrespect someone's talents or train of thought, even if I don't appreciate them. If someone asked me to tell them honestly what I thought of them I would do so in a diplomatic way. Caution is best. I have a friend, however, that would completely disagree and happens to tell anyone and everyone his honest opinion. It is jarring at times, but the end result is much respect and admiration for him by most people.

My conclusion is that neither is wiser, but the decision to be nice or honest will create a significant part of a person's personality and determine how the world sees them.
Dosed
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 11:09 pm
what I'm getting at here is that truth might be robbed in light of kindness.

there are extreme examples, such as a one time affair in a 20 year marriage. Deny the partner truth for the sake of their emotion? This could affect a life basing decision from the partner.

Then there are less extreme examples, such as how do I look in this tie? Again, are we to sugar coat our opinions so as not to step on another's feelings? I understand that there are "nice" ways of telling people things like this, but even in doing so we rob them of some sort of truth.

In my experience that I spoke of, had this person sugar coated what he had to say, I would have reacted differently to the situation we were in, rather than when he spoke the honest cold hearted truth to me. The point is not that it hurt, but that it was real.

Wouldn't you rather have what's real, even with all the pain of the world that comes with it? Or would you still prefer the bliss that comes with kindness?
GoshisDead
 
  3  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 11:09 pm
@Dosed,
Dosed wrote:

I think I disagree. Who are we to "be kind?" Who are we to think that the emotional distress we may cause is not worth the value of truth? Who are we to blind another person from reality?


There is quite a lot of social stability wrapped up in kindness. Saying truth should be paramount is nice for one who believes that truth has a higher moral value than kindness, however, it is not very practical given human behavior, psychology, and identity. Truth however is rarely subtle when contrasted with kindeness in a situation where one would naturally contrast them. It is also the rare person who would rather hear something true, which in the case of a kindeness contrast also implies unkind, about themselves than the kind lie.

One must remember the cognitive and cultural frame of the question asked. In the majority of cases where one would contrast truth and kindness the contrast is set up rhetorically, much like the standard greeting "how are you today?". Although the answer "fine" may be a bald faced lie, it is the expected response to the rhetorical question, rendering it not a lie because of the context of the cutlural fram and expectations of the conversation.

The same can be argued of a majority of situations where kindeness and truth can be contrasted in a conversation. The conversational norm is rhetorical, even when prefaced by, "tell me the truth". By setting the kindness/truth contrast up in a conversation one is automatically pulling a common rhetorical conversation schema/frame and it would take some real doing to alter that frame. the expected answer to a question that sets this frame up should be either outright kindness or at the very least a very softened version of the truth.

For an interesting analysis of the lie in standard conversation read
"The Definition of lie: an examination of the folk models underlying a semantic prototype", Eve E. Sweetser (pp. 43-67)
Dosed
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 11:11 pm
@GoshisDead,
interesting response. thank you.
0 Replies
 
Pepijn Sweep
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 11:12 pm
@A Lyn Fei,
Some thruths are not subjective. Like my sister who´s always late at appoinments... Kindness did not make an impression so now I just wait 15 minutes and than go my own way and forget about it. I also stopped making efforts to meet her because I was disappointed so many times.

I do not correct people all the time, but try to be more kind to myself. People who stress me out every time I meet less, or end the friendship. It is hard to be kind and clear at the same time.
Jebediah
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 11:16 pm
@Dosed,
Dosed wrote:

Then there are less extreme examples, such as how do I look in this tie? Again, are we to sugar coat our opinions so as not to step on another's feelings? I understand that there are "nice" ways of telling people things like this, but even in doing so we rob them of some sort of truth.


I see, but it isn't a choice between being overly nice and stating something flat out. Most people understand that a noncommittal "sure" means that you don't think the tie looks nice, especially if you usually praise a tie that looks nice. But if people are sensitive about their looks, and you say "yup, looking a bit chubby there" it may be factually true, but if they end up thinking some depressive thoughts about it then what you said made them believe something that wasn't true. So in trying to not rob them of the truth you ended up robbing them of the truth.
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 11:19 pm
@A Lyn Fei,
A Lyn Fei wrote:

wayne wrote:

Most people have no desire to hear the truth, we all generally prefer to live in our own little worlds believing our own versions of truth.
Exactly what is the truth anyway? Is the truth itself something more than our own opinion of truth?


Truth is subjective, especially when it comes to the opinion of a person. That is not the point, I feel here, though. If someone is honest about their feelings with you, it might hurt. I would never disrespect someone's talents or train of thought, even if I don't appreciate them. If someone asked me to tell them honestly what I thought of them I would do so in a diplomatic way. Caution is best. I have a friend, however, that would completely disagree and happens to tell anyone and everyone his honest opinion. It is jarring at times, but the end result is much respect and admiration for him by most people.

My conclusion is that neither is wiser, but the decision to be nice or honest will create a significant part of a person's personality and determine how the world sees them.


I think you have painted an excellent picture of the situation. I agree wholeheartedly with your view.
I know several persons who earn the kind of respect you describe, I do believe it is a sort of balancing act. The persons of this type, that I respect, tell it like they see it, without judgement or malice. This, I think, is the trick.
To tell the truth of our opinions without malice, more difficult than it may seem.
0 Replies
 
Krumple
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 11:19 pm
@Dosed,
I would rather have the truth than kindness. But some might try to pass off untruth as truth followed by a lack of kindness.
0 Replies
 
Dosed
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 11:23 pm
@Jebediah,
Our responsibility is not to protect people's feelings. Once we deliver the truth, it is out of our hands. How this person perceives what we say is not our fault. It is only our responsibility to be as clear as possible and to communicate what we mean. Unfortunately, in being "kind" we actually are being cruel.

Think of a time when your friend was hurting. What did you say? "Don't worry. Everything is going to be okay."

um...no it isn't. Your friends feels shitty right now, because they are in a shitty circumstance. Why sugar coat it? Why be so cruel in your kindness JUST to make someone feel better? They should feel what they feel because of the truth, not because what's kind is what's comfortable.

why do we think we're responsible for anything other than giving truth?
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 11:24 pm
@Pepijn Sweep,
Pepijn Sweep wrote:

Some thruths are not subjective. Like my sister who´s always late at appoinments... Kindness did not make an impression so now I just wait 15 minutes and than go my own way and forget about it. I also stopped making efforts to meet her because I was disappointed so many times.

I do not correct people all the time, but try to be more kind to myself. People who stress me out every time I meet less, or end the friendship. It is hard to be kind and clear at the same time.


I have finally begun learning to do just what you describe. I am frustrated by persons who cannot show up on time, or commit to planning ahead. I am now doing what you describe, and my life is better for it. Sometimes you just gotta look out for yourself.
0 Replies
 
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 11:36 pm
@Dosed,
Dosed wrote:

Our responsibility is not to protect people's feelings. Once we deliver the truth, it is out of our hands. How this person perceives what we say is not our fault. It is only our responsibility to be as clear as possible and to communicate what we mean. Unfortunately, in being "kind" we actually are being cruel.

Think of a time when your friend was hurting. What did you say? "Don't worry. Everything is going to be okay."

um...no it isn't. Your friends feels shitty right now, because they are in a shitty circumstance. Why sugar coat it? Why be so cruel in your kindness JUST to make someone feel better? They should feel what they feel because of the truth, not because what's kind is what's comfortable.

why do we think we're responsible for anything other than giving truth?


The real test of a person's knowledge in a conversation in any given language and culture is applied situational appropriateness. So when you say its not your responsibility to be kind, that is only situationally applicable. For it to be applicable accross the board you would find yourself friendless pretty danged quick. Maybe an interesting project would be to get a click counter and click everytime you found it natural not to tell the truth in a day. Afterwards pick a few and analyse the situation, what everyone expected and wanted from it and how normative you think it was. Granted in extreme situations one may actually want the truth, but in most, one wants and expects a rhetorical answer built with a standardized formula.
Dosed
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 11:40 pm
@GoshisDead,
If everyone wants and expects a rhetorical answer then we are all robots and life is meaningless.

I don't accept that.
A Lyn Fei
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2010 11:59 pm
@Dosed,
Dosed wrote:

If everyone wants and expects a rhetorical answer then we are all robots and life is meaningless.

I don't accept that.



But most people do, in fact, give a rhetorical answer to questions. "How are you doing?" "Fine, thanks" That's pretty standard and many times untrue. Do you give these typical answers or do you tell the truth?

I don't think having a private life cause life to be meaningless, though as I have said people respect those who don't silently judge in their minds, but just say it as it is.
Dosed
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 12:02 am
@A Lyn Fei,
I give the "fine, thanks" to someone who doesn't really honestly ask me how I'm doing and only does so for the sake of formality. They don't honestly want to know how I'm doing. They don't want to hear how my dog just died and my boyfriend just broke up with me and how I'm late on my car payment. They just want to hear that "fine, thanks."

Honest questions evoke honest answers. Truth shouldn't be denied when it is sought, regardless of the consequences.
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 12:06 am
@Dosed,
accept it or not, it is the standard. We tend to think of ourselves as in total control of every action. If we did not fly on autopilot most of the time we would never get past the choices it takes to get out of the house in the morning.
0 Replies
 
 

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