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Is Kindness Wiser Than Truth?

 
 
A Lyn Fei
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 12:07 am
@Dosed,
Agreed. However, do you think the person saying the words, "Tell me honestly... if you like me." Or "what you're thinking this minute" Or "how this dress that I have just paid $800 for makes me look" means they really want the truth? Or is there a different way to tell if someone is being honest- perhaps how they pose the question, the look in their eyes, etc?
And if you can't tell if a person is being honest or not, do you give the honest answer or resort to kindness?
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 12:20 am
One way to look at it is almost utilitarian. Do we act kindly at the expense of the truth? The truth in almost all these situations is a situational truth, in fact in most cases the truth is an opinion. Do I look fat, am I needy, tell me what you really think? These are not necessarily truths in the sense of a truth. the truth in these cases is that you will give your actual opinion and not what you think i want to hear. Now what is the premium on this type of truth given that in most normal situations one is actually asking for a rhetorical answer. If one gets what one is asking for it is the truth as well, because in saying, tell me the truth about what you think, is actually asking tell me your opinion in a way that doesn't hurt my feelings and sturcture it in a manner to which I am accustomed. One is not any less truthful than the other as an opinion is not necessarily true.

So do I expect an honest opinion eventhough it may destroy the cultural conversational framework? Is the premium on my expectation of honesty value worth more than the potential destruction of the communcative structure, the cultural norm, and possibly current and future friendships, as the expectation of honesty counter to the framework is likely to make everyone involved uneasy at best.
Dosed
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 12:21 am
@A Lyn Fei,
personally, I want the truth always, even if it's painful. and I feel it is my responsibility to deliver truth, no matter how unkind it is. That way, I do not rob the autonomy of the person. I do not make them into a fool. I do not manipulate them. I do not allow them to behave as if "everything is fine" when everything is not fine. And I expect and desire the same from anyone who I ask to give me the truth.
Dosed
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 12:24 am
@GoshisDead,
except a kind answer is not necessarily your real answer.

You bring up Utilitarianism, and that's a fine point. But I go back to my point that the attempt to be kind is actually cruel, as it leads a person to believe an untrue fact or opinion, and in turn affects their decisions, their behaviors, and their autonomy.
0 Replies
 
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 12:37 am
@Dosed,
Dosed wrote:

personally, I want the truth always, even if it's painful. and I feel it is my responsibility to deliver truth, no matter how unkind it is. That way, I do not rob the autonomy of the person. I do not make them into a fool. I do not manipulate them. I do not allow them to behave as if "everything is fine" when everything is not fine. And I expect and desire the same from anyone who I ask to give me the truth.


This is setting your opinion above the expectations and desires of everyone with whom you communicate. One is not expressing or asking for a truth in these situations one is asking for an unadulturated opinion, which is not the same thing. In essence it is saying "my opinion is so right that I will sacrifice your feelings in order to utter it".
0 Replies
 
Pepijn Sweep
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 12:38 am
@A Lyn Fei,
I know it´s a cultural thing but to me the used formula´s sounded fake. I remember my mother saying she thought it un-polite to be asked this question all the time but never able to answer it properly. We were Dutch calvinists in NY and yust wished a Good Morning, or Have a Nice Day. I guess it´s possible to say anything if U smile right.
0 Replies
 
melonkali
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 12:45 am
@Dosed,
Dosed wrote:

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.


Yeah but... I know the considerate reaction is simply to say, "Fine. And you?" But I just can't bring myself to do it. "How are you doing?" does not seem, to me, like a rhetorical question. If you don't want to know how I'm doing, then don't ask me. If you simply want to convey friendly greeting, then nod, smile, mumble "howdy", make a peace sign (or "live long and prosper" or "whatever"), but don't ask me such a question if you don't want an answer. Because you will get an answer. And the more apathetic or annoyed you seem, the longer that answer will drone on and on and on and...

Regarding "white lies", in my youth (paleozoic era) the art of "white lies" was part of "good manners" (not just a canon of rules, but genuine consideration of others). The basic question we were taught to consider was this: is the other person in a position to change his actions based on your "honest" answer, or will he just feel badly, perhaps even function less well? If the other person has a choice of actions or options which your answer may affect, then it is disrespectful not to be honest with him. But every situation is different, so in the end it boils down to your best judgment call.

rebecca
0 Replies
 
Jebediah
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 08:58 am
@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?


I'm confused about what you think the truth is. It can be true that someone works at starbucks and doesn't have much money left after paying their rent. But is it true that they are therefore in "shitty circumstances" and that they should feel "shitty"? You have some sort of confusing moral rule going on here. But I don't think you h ave any basis for concluding that the person is in shitty circumstances. It really does depend on their frame of mind. A lot in life depends on the perspective you take. So when you try to be truthful you are actually lying in this example. You are deceiving them.
Pepijn Sweep
 
  0  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 09:47 am
@Jebediah,
Last April I went to a Starbucks for the first time. As a passing customer I felt really sad to drink coffee from a paper cup (it tasted like paper at least). I cannot imagion a frame of mind to keep me happy in a place like that.

Certainly not for wages barely enough to get by on. Were you ever in a situation like that ? As an adult ? With a family to take care of ? I am just curious how U dealt with lack of perspective in your life.
0 Replies
 
djjd62
 
  2  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 09:49 am
@GoshisDead,
GoshisDead wrote:

Its possible that the height of wisdom is to know when to be kind and when to express truth.


the true height of wisdom is knowing which questions not to ask, if you don't think you want to hear the answers
0 Replies
 
stevecook172001
 
  2  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 10:09 am
@Dosed,
Dosed wrote:

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?
It depends on who the recipient of the truth or fiction was

If one of my kids, when they were very young, had developed a terminal illness and was terrified that when they died they would never seem me again, I would, from my own perspective, have lied to him and would have told him we would be together again in heaven.

This is because I would have been adhereing to a deeper imperative than the mere "truth". I would have been adhering to the imperative to do no harm.

It would have harmed him to have told him the truth as I see it.
Sentience
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 11:35 am
Depends on the question at hand.

For example, in say, art, I will often go from, "Wow man, that looks ******* horrible..." to "Umm... It's all right... But I think you should ____."

If I do not tell them it looks bad, they will not improve it. Especially if it's for something that's going to be graded. Unfortunately, not many others respect this, and among my friends I am known to be a critic even on work that is greater than my own (which frankly, I don't see why is a problem. The master chef is a better chef then the master food critic).

If it's something like, something bad happened that was their fault, but they couldn't do anything to make it better and it's basically inconsequential, it's better to just pretend nothing happened and both go about your day in a good mood.
0 Replies
 
GoshisDead
 
  2  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 12:16 pm
The key issue here is the moral aversion to the lie. I agree with the moral aversion to the lie, I don't like being lied to. I, however, am taking about a series of cultural conversational schemas where the semantic value of the the conversation is not the same as the functional value of the conversation. The non-semantic value of conversation is just as important and in many cases more imprtant than the straight semantic load.

In situations where one normally upon reflection have seen the choice between politeness and honesty, or as this thread puts it kindness and truth, the reflective situation is not what is actually going on. Rather the smeantic load being communicated is being supplanted by the non-semantic function of the schema in which the words are set.

To explain function and its situationally changing role: I take my dog to the park to play. Function 1: Dog needs exercise and I find it fun. Change the situation. Good looking girl notices the dog and wants to pet it. Function 2: the dog has become my wingman. the dog is a trust booster, as the good looking girl would likely not have approached me had I not had the dog. Given what I wanted out of both situations the function of my dog switched roles. I went from one culturally appropriate frame/schema or behavior to another.

This happens with the semantic form of a conversation. I conversation that requires a choice between nice/honest on the surface of semantics is normally built with a schema that requires function to be valued above form. They are schemas that function as ego boosters, commisserations, tacit agreement, or acceptance etc... The function of the structured interaction like, does my butt look fat in these jeans, or mama I drew this isn't it beautiful are not petitions for answers based on the semantics they are part of conversational wholes designed with alternate function. They establish social distance, bonding, social hierarchy etc... One can look at the entire exchange as an alternate function that has nothing to do with the semantics aside from using them as the schema frame for the actual communication event. So to even say that, answering "i'm fine" in a normal greeting exchange when you are not actually fine is a white lie, is a falsity as the entire exchange normally has nothing to do with an exchange of information, but functions as a sociocultural distancing mechanism of space recognition.
0 Replies
 
Dosed
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 12:47 pm
@stevecook172001,
your example is the only one I can consider where I think I would want to lie as well.

But then again, I think about it. And there a way to be truthful to the innocent. It's about intentions. And intention counts as truth because you are the deliverer of truth. You honestly do now want to see this child be afraid, you honestly do not want to hurt this child. so you tell them something that delivers them comfort and truth. I honestly don't know what you would say, but I know it's possible to do so.

Think of a less extreme example. I make you pancakes. The pancakes are burnt. You love me and don't want my feelings to be hurt. This is your truth: burnt pancakes from someone you love. I say "how are they?" and you say "well, they are burnt and nasty pancakes, but I love you and I'm going to eat every last bite of them." with a big smile on your face. I might get mad, or I might laugh and shrug it off. Either way, you were honest and you didn't shield you intentions. You did put my feelings into consideration, but you never lied to me.
0 Replies
 
Dosed
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 12:52 pm
@Jebediah,
I suppose we only give truth when it is sought. we don't walk around telling people our negative opinions unless they are asked for. usually, at least.

and I see the confusion of what truth is. honestly, I don't know. I suppose the truth is the sheer fact of how you feel about something. If "I want the truth from you," then I want to know how YOU feel or think. Becuase it is the truth that you feel or think this way and it is the truth that someone else feels or thinks this way and that someone else feels or thinks a different way. It is the truth. It is a lie when I believe you or you or you feels or thinks in a different way than you actually feel or think and I adjust my behavior as if you feel and think that way when actually you do not.

Any more clear on what I mean?
0 Replies
 
mark noble
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 02:21 pm
Hi dosed!

Tell it as it is!

I had hundreds of folk, colleagues and customers pass by me every day with the "Morning, how are we today" Blank routinal gesture, and I fixed it thusly - I would reply 'I'm not a "WE", I'm a "You" from your perspective'. This stuns them because it's unusual. I would continue "If you truly cared about my welfare you would look me in the eyes and ask 'Me' how 'I' am. So, if you are genuine in your enquiry, either do so with meaning, or don't enquire in the first place" (Many ummm's and aah's occur at this point). This leaves two options only -A) Don't enquire hereafter - ergo proving your original falsity, or B) Enquire meaningfully. I don't know of anyone, bar newcomers, who don't mean (or at least, appear to mean) what they enquire of others, anymore. Now everyone where I work, colleagues and customers, apply these principles. Stuff spreads, I guess?

Don't ever ask me a question if you're not willing to accept the reply.

Have a brilliant day!

Mark...
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 02:42 pm
@mark noble,
The function of Politeness, is not comeraderie, the function of politeness is to establish distance by recognizing the space and time occupied by another. The casual head nod does the exact same thing in this respect as the "how are we today". Neither is disingenuous. A person sets themself up for a lifetime of rejection if s/he takes the impersonality of the greeting personally.
Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 02:53 pm
If by "wisdom" you mean maximizing the potential for mankind's longevity then nope, kindness does not (with any certainty) equate to mankind's longevity.
0 Replies
 
mark noble
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 03:16 pm
@GoshisDead,
Hi Russ!

Potentially sets themself up for rejection - Situation depends on criteria present. The atmosphere here is the most communally personable atmosphere you will ever encounter. Honesty breaks the ice between strangers (prone to mistrust) far greater than trivial falsity. It impregnates the inner mind, not satifies the aesthetic. If that which is false goes unattended, the falsity becomes the standard.
It is done by teaching calmly, not preaching aggressively.

Pop along and see, if you doubt.

Have a great day Russ!
mark...
stevecook172001
 
  2  
Reply Tue 29 Jun, 2010 03:17 pm
I think what a lot of folks on here are missing is that we humans are evolved to be social creatures and so much of our "communication with one another has got bugger all to do with the "truth". It has to do with what interpersonally/socially "works".

Tell the "truth" on each and every occassion you interact with another human and I confidently predict you won't have much of a social life.

 

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