Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Life's Lesson #1: Be Honest, But Not Rude

I thought I would do something fun for a couple of posts. I'm going to recount some experiences from my growing up years (and maybe some from more recently) that have taught me some of life's lesser discussed virtues. I hope that you will find yourself relating to these tales. Feel free to post similar experiences in the comments!

#1: Be Honest, But Not Rude.

When I was in Junior High, I kept a journal religiously. It was not about giving myself perspective, necessarily, or about discussing cute boys. It was really a chance for me to talk. I was very private growing up; always a great listener, but never feeling free to share my troubles or concerns with others. Maybe I didn't want to burden them, maybe I didn't quite trust them to understand, maybe I just didn't know how to share. One experience makes me think the last reason might have some hefty weight to it.

We had a new girl move into our ward. She was overweight, quiet, not very pretty. Nice, of course, but kind of dowdy or frumpy in both mannerisms and style. She just didn't strike me as all that "cool". Of course, I didn't write THAT in my journal. But I remember having a conversation with her one day that made me realize she was actually a VERY neat person, someone not only likable, but confident and trendy behind her initial quiet demeanor. She was really a blast to be around once she was comfortable around you! I did write about THAT in my journal.

So one day she spent the night. I remember being amazed again at how cool she was, and I was chagrined anew at my original prideful judgment. I wanted to tell her how much I esteemed her. But, since I was not very good at sharing my feelings, I decided the best way was to read her that journal entry. The one where I "discovered" how cool she was. I can remember how she picked at the fuzz on my blanket with an awkward look on her face when I read things like:

"I used to think 'Julie'* (all names have been changed) was fat and frumpy and weird, just a dumpy slob. But now I know she is fun!"
"Just goes to show that though the outward appearance might be fat and ugly, she's really great and I shouldn't have judged her"

Notice that these comments are really self-deprecating... but they also say some pretty mean and blunt things about her. And I READ that to her... What was I thinking?

She got really quiet around me after that. Our friendship never felt comfortable again. All because I was totally "honest" with her...but I was rude. Even when I was trying to explain how cool she was to me, I was insulting her. I always regretted that. Twice over. Once for misjudging her in the first place and Twice for telling her so bluntly about it.

Moral of the story: write a nice letter. Tell someone how much you like them, not how you 'got past' their flaws. Be honest, but not rude.


  1. love it Elisa. I needed to read that. My bluntness is never rude... just extremely honest. I'll do as you suggested. You're cute. I think you are one of the greatest, funnest, sweetest people I know. I love it. There are many people I look up to without them knowing... and well, you fall into that category quite nicely. :)
    Jeremy is a Computer Science Major but he has to take physics.
    Thanks again for the comment and for doing this post.

  2. I think I (unknowingly) applied this teaching this evening - one of my new friends is gay, and I wanted to explain my thoughts before he heard the 'truth' from someone else. I didn't go in great detail, but he was kind, and we're still friends, so all is well.
    I was honest, but I (hope) was also respectful. I think he would've told me, too, if I wasn't. So that's a good sign.

  3. That is such a middle-school thing to do! It's weird to think about some of the things we did/thought during those years! At least you have learned...some people still don't know that's rude!

  4. Oh how I know how *Julie* felt! ha ha - Just recently I lost 80 lbs. Great, right?? Well I cannot tell you how much it bugged me when people would say "WOW! You've lost a LOT of weight! You look great now!" - so I could hear they were thinking "You looked awful before - a fat hippo!!" Although it was great to get the compliments, it was all in how they said it - you know? ha ha - I find myself lacking tact alot too, though....

  5. I have a sister-in-law that needs to learn this lesson. You'd think by age 30 she'd realize her words have an affect on other people and she is OFTEN rude when she just thinks she's being honest! It's actually so bad that we do not get along and I hardly ever talk to my brother because of it. Glad you learned this lesson early in life!