Monday, February 16, 2009

I Think You're Fat.

Actually, I don't. But I DO think that this article from Esquire Magazine** (from way back in 2007) is really intriguing. The author, A.J. Jacobs, takes on a movement called Radical Honesty in which one is supposed to be, well, radically honest. Say whatever is on your mind, hold nothing back, don't sugarcoat it. The results? Mixed.

When the author confesses to a friend that he was insulted at not being invited to his wedding, the friend confesses that he did it in retaliation for not being invited to the author's wedding years before. Apparently the whole thing was a mix-up: "A breakthrough! We are communicating! Blanton is right. Brian and I crushed some eggshells. We are not stoic, emotionless men. I'm enjoying this. A little bracing honesty can be a mood booster."

But when his wife is telling him a story and he blatantly says he doesn't want to listen anymore? Not such good results. And as Jacobs says: "Ninety percent of the time I love my wife...And 10 percent of the time I hate her. Why should I hurt her feelings that 10 percent of the time? Why not just wait until that phase passes and I return to the true feeling, which is that I love her?"

Which brings up the question: is it okay to be totally honest or are white lies necessary to keep from hurting others? Or even more thought-provoking: are we capable of being totally honest?

I am inclined to say no. As humans, we are designed to have censors that keep us from doing and saying whatever we feel like. Not only does this benefit other people, it benefits us. What happens if you eat whatever happens to look good? You get chubby. What happens if you say whatever you want whenever you want? You destroy social bonds (and occasionally hurt other people). And your brain is always deciding how information is filtered and presented, so chances are the information as you are seeing it isn't even the truth in the first place. At the risk of sounding too New Age-y, there could be no literal "truth" to tell.

When Mr. Jacobs tells his twenty-seven-year-old nanny that he would ask her out if he wasn't married and that she is "stunning," he confesses that it visibly makes her nervous. Um, yeah, you're hitting on someone who works for you. Sexual harassment much? But Brad Blanton, the founder of Radical Honesty, states that sex talk in the work place doesn't count as sexual harassment and it is society's inability to handle the truth that's the real problem.

Here's my bit of honesty for the day: I think Brad Blanton is an idiot who, despite being called a "psychotherapist" has clearly never actually studied psychology.

What are your thoughts? Think you could be radically honest for a day? A month? Your entire life?

**I don't happen to read Esquire magazine on a regular basis, the article was just something I stumbled upon. However, if you happen to be female and up for a few good laughs, I highly recommend that you read some of the things the mag has to say about women because they can be hilariously innaccurate. Are women's mags that inaccurate about men? Hmm...


  1. I tell little white lies a lot. Mostly because I'm HORRIBLE at saying no so I make up little white lies as to why I can't do things, it makes me feel better..

    I recently confronted a "friend" about all the BIG lies she was telling all. the. time. and it did not go over well, we are no longer friends. I think that telling the "truth" all the time would just hurt people but there's a difference between a little white lie like saying you're busy when you're not to big lies like saying your pregnant when your not...

    So big lies can hurt and the truth can hurt too!

  2. I'm sorry about your friend Amber- and I agree, there's a pretty big difference between pretending to be busy and pretending to be pregnant. Craziness!


  3. My boyfriend is one of the people who maintains that he is just being honest. Well he's is never hurtful per se, I've just learned to ignore most of the negative things he says. (yes it is true that I had two slices of cake and I might regret it... but I really just don't care!)

  4. this is SO interesting! i'm going to check the article out!!!! i totally think white lies are vastly important--essential!--for a relationship.

  5. Shoshanah- we call that "diarrhea of the mouth" around here lol, when someone won't censor what they say at all.

    Joanna- I'm inclined to agree. It's just a matter of picking what you tell someone so you don't hurt them. I'm pretty open with Nathan but he doesn't need to know every gory detail of my life, you know? Maybe this should be a Smitten topic :)