What Do You Think?
‘The wounds of a friend are faithful.’
“What do you think?” a speaker asked. Inwardly, I cringed. Even though they were someone I considered myself to be ‘close’ to, I paused to think. In quick succession, almost without conscious thought, a dilemma was born as the following flickered through my mind:
- Is the speaker a close enough friend to be completely honest with?
- Is the speaker looking for an honest answer? Or,
- Is the speaker looking for an affirmation on something they’ve already decided upon?
- Has the speaker considered the full consequences of the action they are asking thoughts on?
- Is the speaker possibly ready for an honest, unanticipated response?
It has been my frequent observation, whenever someone actually asks for my thoughts on any given item, rarely are they seeking an honest assessment. Rather, they are most often seeking an affirmation of something they’ve already decided upon and are asking ‘What do you think?’ based upon that assumption.
It has also been my frequent observation, shared by countless others, that assumptions are usually bad. In common wisdom it is most often relayed in the salty folk-wisdom which follows:
Never Assume. We all know what happens when we assume. You make an *ss out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.
I have, unfortunately, learned this by personal experience, recently, in fact. After mentally asking myself all 5 questions above, and answering ‘yes’ to all of them, I assumed it was safe to provide an honest answer. The speaker had, after all, by previous experience, been willing to listen to an honest answer. I can hear many of you chuckling, cringing, clucking, and rolling your eyes as you read this. Age makes no difference. I hear the same comments daily, from the elderly to young children. None of us has never done this before, right? Right. We all have.
It rapidly became apparent to the speaker, (and to my own chagrin), that they were not prepared in the least to receive an honest answer about the topic they had so earnestly inquired about. It was an unintended wound.
An honest comment was instantly transformed into to an open rebuke which neither of us had anticipated. Nonetheless, it held and rang true. It also hung upon the integrity, trust, honesty, and accountability between the two of us. The speaker had assumed I would tell them what they thought they wanted to hear. I surprised them by instead, being honest. I grieved at the pain I had unintentionally caused as their hidden wound was laid bare.
I had made a very simple, mistake: when asked, I had assumed it was safe to point out, what I thought of as an obvious, honest response to another’s request. This was someone whom, throughout our lifetime, had no qualms about being just as open and honest with myself about things regardless of whether I asked for their thoughts or not. In doing so, I caused a wound, a painful wound as it struck a hidden nerve, unexpected by either of us in the course of our conversation.
I had, on occasion, felt the same as the speaker. However, I was grateful to them for removing previous blind spots in my thinking, whether the blind spots were deliberate or not. I felt safe, always looking them in the eye, as emotional currency was equally exchanged, giving and receiving in turn throughout our lives. Each of us could accurately gauge what it was costing the other to be honest. We value each other and our friendship very highly. It was a faithful wound. I remained faithful to my friend.
Life is odd like this isn’t it? No matter how well-prepared we think ourselves or others are, we still surprise those that know us best, including ourselves. It is the acceptance, grace, and willingness to forgive and be forgiven which defines our character when receiving such a faithful wound from a trusted source.
Love, trust, friendship, integrity, honesty, acceptance, accountability – all define those whom I count as friends. I trust that my friends respect and love me enough to tell me the truth. They in return, expect the same of me. Human nature, often being what it is, is rarely prepared to experience such honesty, from anyone. This determines if our relationships deepen and grow, or wither and die. I was forgiven, and I forgave their reaction. Neither one of us were looking to be offended. We both gained a deeper respect for each other. Our bond was tested, tempered, and strengthened.
So, instead of thinking your friends are those who tell you what you want to hear, I propose: your true friends, the one’s worth calling friends in the first place, are those whom love and respect you enough to tell you the truth. I also propose: you are only worth being named as a friend yourself, if you are willing to tell the other person you consider to be a friend, the truth.
Let me put it this way: I once knew someone, whom I considered a very close friend. Unfortunately, I often had to ask the right question, in the right way, in the right phase of the moon, to get what should have been offered up in the first place: The Truth. Then, in anger, they would run to those offering ‘shocked’ and protective ‘shelter’ from the truth. Those shocked and protecting ‘friends’ wedged themselves into a dispute that didn’t involve them for their own purposes. Enough deception and/or self-deception, no matter how convincing it is, nor how many times it is repeated to oneself, will destroy the relationship in question.
None of us should have to work that hard to expect honesty, be honest ourselves, expect or have any need to defend ourselves against honesty in the first place. We are often imperfect, selfish, self-deceptive and proud with selective hearing, sight, and memories. With all of our imperfections, we are to extend grace and forgiveness to those whom we perceive as having hurt us. Why? Because it is guaranteed, we will need that very same grace and forgiveness ourselves in return. Don’t be honest with someone whom you consider trustworthy, then turn around and expect that same person to NOT be honest with YOU. The wounds of a friend can be trusted. What do you think?
- Strengths & Journals: Be Careful What You Ask (menbuildingbridges.wordpress.com)