I recently had a video chat conversation with two people where one was desperate in wanting to help the other. She was frustrated and tired of seeing the other person so beat down and living below her potential. In a sort of last ditch effort to help, she resorted to being brutally honest with the other person about her behavior, appearance and more. It was harsh, to say the least.
I listened to what was said and took into account both sides, the one desperate to see change in a person she loves, and the one who was down and out. (I quickly broke the whole “brutal honesty” issue down to them both and we came to an agreement in the end.)
See, when one resorts to brutal honesty, there’s a shock value effect that one seems to be striving for in hopes that the shock will then render a positive result in the other person. All too often though, the whole plan is shot because instead of tough love, instead of honesty, what the other person hears and feels, is the brutality.
Looking at the definition and a few synonyms of the word brutal, sheds a bright light on how unhelpful this “mode of communication” can be when trying to bring about positive change. Brutal means, savagely violent, punishingly hard or uncomfortable. It also means direct and lacking any attempt to disguise unpleasantness. A few synonyms include: savage, cruel, vicious, ruthless, heartless, cold-blooded, unsparing, stark, naked, etc.
Now here’s the thing, I am a pretty straightforward person, but, I take care in how I speak to and with people. I am honest but I will not be brutally so because I want to be heard and understood. I don’t want to beat anyone up with my words and most importantly, I don’t want to sever the connection I have with anyone. Connection is more important than being correct. I don’t get any bonus points for being honest when I ruin a relationship. I want to take care with the hearts of those I claim to hold dear.
Later, the person who was on the receiving end of the brutal honesty, not so shockingly stated that she feels people have their foot on her neck, all while telling her to rise up. She feels beat up and/or ignored by everyone close to her. This is a person in need of some massive amounts of love, not brutal honesty.
In moments like this, I am grateful that I have been trained to not prophesy the obvious, bringing up people’s dirt. Instead, we are to reach into each person, and pull out the gold that’s there already inside of them. This is far more effective when the goal is to help a person rise to their greatest potential.
Interestingly, as I chimed in about my take on brutal honesty, I started by saying that I didn’t believe it was good to be brutally honest with others. I said I would only be honest with others but not brutally so, and that I would save the brutal honesty for myself. Just as the words left my lips, I heard my Abba say to me, “And why would you even treat yourself that way?” I stopped as the realization hit me that brutal honesty isn’t for anyone. Sure, be honest, but brutal? No. We really have to get this right and help build one another up instead of tearing each other and ourselves down. It serves no one to be cruel, yet so many of us are our own worst enemy. This must stop. We must allow the Lord to show us who we are and believe Him.
So, if you were once one who ascribed to the idea of being brutally honest as if it was a good way to conduct yourself, please, don’t do that anymore. Don’t do it to others, and don’t do it to yourself. Let’s learn new and effective ways to broach the hard subjects with one another. We have help. He longs to show us how to be in relationship with each other in ways that make it such that everyone involved feels edified, loved and encouraged. Everybody can win.