Category Archives: honesty

Are You So Nice that You’re Unkind?

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“In the world where you can be anything, be kind.” Unknown

My husband John and I came into our marriage with very different ways to solve a problem, and we both thought our way was the kind one.

I’m honest. I say whatever comes to mind that I think might help him understand why I’m upset. I figured he wanted to hear what I had to say because I wanted him to speak up about his upset moments – share the problem, tell me what I did to contribute to it, and spend another 30 minutes analyzing the pain and coming up with a solution. Then hug and live like Cinderella.

My way seemed sensible, as well as kind. I never understood the saying “brutally honest” because I wanted to hear the truth. I didn’t like someone hinting at what was wrong, skirting issues instead of being straightforward, or convincing us they weren’t angry or hurt until their surprise attack. I may not have liked or agreed with what they said, but I valued candor.

John, on the other hand, preferred niceness in hopes of avoiding any kind of confrontation. He’d rather offer to take me out for dessert than discuss why he checked his cell phone at dinner. He equated being nice with being kind. His favors were fine until I realized they were meant to replace talking about problems.

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My honesty and his niceness often clashed, escalating our discussions to arguments. He couldn’t figure out why I didn’t appreciate him being nice. I couldn’t explain why I thought he was uncaring. All I knew was that when I tried talking to him about an issue and, instead of listening, he offered to wash dishes, my stomach knotted up and I wanted to whack him with a dirty plate.

We ended up arguing off topic. We’d debate why I didn’t thank him for helping in the kitchen instead of why he wouldn’t leave his phone alone for 30 minutes. Our arguments reminded me of interactions with Mom. One time that stands out was the day she broke a white figurine I made in art class. She glued it back together, which was fine, but then she drew along the cracks with a black permanent marker. The more I cried, the more nice things she offered to do for me. She wanted me to invite a friend over to bake cookies. I wondered why she thought socializing and sugar would be an adequate substitute for sympathy and an apology, which is what I wanted even as young as eight.

Keeping It Going …

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The way Mom tried to fix problems made no sense to me, so I married someone like her. I know, that doesn’t make sense either. John married someone like his mom (me) who wanted to tell him what he did wrong. I hoped my suggestions would help fix our marriage and family. Just so you know, we’re one of many odd couples. A lot of us marry someone similar to one of our parents because recreating “home” is comfortable even if it’s crazy. Like a friend said, “If you can’t heal your relationship with your mom and dad, you pick people like them and try to get it right for the rest of your life. That is, unless you fix yourself.”

Like John’s mom, I valued dialogue and directness.

Like my mom, John valued silence and discretion.

For decades, we had no idea we repeated family patterns or even that there were patterns. We didn’t know to honor each other’s differences or to knock off being so hard on each other. John could have listened when I talked about what bothered me. I could have been less blunt when discussing those things.

Instead, we kept doing the same things again and again until repetition and insanity, which is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results, nearly cost us our relationship.

I called him mean because his niceness felt manipulative – a way to get me to shut up. The nicer he was, the less I thought he cared about me.

He thought I was unkind because I criticized him and critiqued the nice things he did – my way of trying to explain issues he didn’t want me to feel about or talk about.

It came to a head when he said, “I have no idea why being nice is never good enough for you. Why won’t you just accept me being nice?”

I screamed, “I can’t stand you being nice. You know what’d be nice? If for a change, you tried kindness.”

Kindness

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The word caused both of us to catch our breath, …

and hold it a moment.

I wondered if the difference in wording really mattered as much as it seemed to in the car that day. I looked up both words in the dictionary and the thesaurus, googled quotes for each one, and even plugged them into Pixabay.com to see what photos popped up for “kind” versus “nice.”

Merriam-Webster.com defined the adjective “kind” as sympathetic and helpful; of a forbearing nature; affectionate and loving.

Synonym’s for kind included benevolent, compassionate, good-hearted, humane, kindhearted, kindly, softhearted, tender, warmhearted.

The same site described “nice” as pleasing and agreeable; appropriate; socially acceptable; virtuous and respectable; polite.

Compared to kind, the list of synonyms for nice included worldly words like agreeable, congenial, darling, delectable, delicious, delightful, enjoyable, gratifying, and pleasing, although it also had a couple of spiritual words on it like grateful and blessed.

Quotes about kindness conveyed intensity and insight like these two by unknown writers:

“If we all do one act of random kindnessdaily, we just might set the world in the right direction.”

“Use your voice for kindness, your ears for compassion, your hands for charity, your mind for truth, and your heart for love.”

The only quote I found that used the word “nice” in the context we’re talking about here, well, it had the depth of a puddle:

“Let’s face it, a nicecreamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.” Audrey Hepburn

On Pixabay.com, photos for the word “kind” showed an old man’s gentle face, a baby’s wrinkled feet, and aged hands folded like in prayer.

The pictures that represented “nice” included a rabbit, some kittens, and a few hunky guys, but mostly suggestive images of women, the kind a man would look at and say, “Nice.”

The Spirit of the Word

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

Throughout our 40-year marriage until more recently, we showed little compassion for each other because that would have left one or both of us defenseless. We shared the sin of self-protection by being faux kind and constructively critical. Genuine kindness would have meant being vulnerable. We would have had to put our hurt aside and connect and care about each other.

A gentler relationship is one of the benefits of living by the fruits of Spirit, which are the nine attributes in the quote above. Applying them with the help of the Holy Spirit means we shelve our egos and focus on being godly. We find ourselves being gracious instead of trying to get back at the other person. We go first instead of waiting on the other person to behave like we want. The end result is a kind marriage, not one where we talk like Elaine on Seinfeld, “Oh, that’s nice.”

“You will never look into the eyes of someone God does not love. Always be kind.” Unknown

 My awakening about kindness reached far beyond my marriage.

  • We’re acting niiice (said with a Southern drawl and a self-indulgent attitude) when our relationships are about what we can get from the other person. We’re kind when we expect nothing.
  • We’re acting nice when we only care about getting our way. We’re kindwhen we serve.
  • We’re acting nice when we’re looking good, but our motives are selfish. We’re kindwhen we’re true to ourselves.
  • We’re acting nice when we’re scheming to assure others like us. We’re kindwhen we accept that their opinion of us is none of our business. We get on with our lives.
  • We’re acting nice when we pretend to be easygoing even though we’re control freaks. We’re kindwhen we concede and consider others. We can’t love and control at the same time.
  • We’re acting nice when we overlook stuff we don’t like, but never ever forget it. We’re kindwhen we talk it over and forgive.
  • We’re acting nice when we rally an army of friends to take our side and gossip. We’re kindwhen we talk to the person we have a problem with and share how we feel gracefully.
  • We’re acting nice when we ask questions to be nosey, but pretend we’re interested. We’re kindwhen we genuinely care about the answers.
  • We’re acting nice when we tradeoff gifts, money, or time for attention and accolades. We’re kind when we give freely.
  • We’re acting nice when we justify our unacceptable behavior even though we know better. We’re kind when we do the right thing especially when no one’s watching.

I didn’t intend for “nice” to end up with a bad reputation, but it fell far short of being kind. When we practice kindness, its transformative power in our lives is immeasurable. I’ve since looked at relationships where I may have substituted niceness for what I really want to be, which is kind.

Am I a nice friend or a kind one? A nice mother or a kind one? A nice writer or a kind one? A nice Christian or a kind one?

It’s made all the difference to consider the difference. #whilelovingthepeopleinit #nice #kind

In This Together,
Kim

On the side: An interesting blog post about brutal honesty. Click below to read it.

Why brutal honesty is a mistake — and the one time it’s not

 

 

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Isolated or Insulated (living safe with people)

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“I feel safer keeping a space, a gentle breeze between me and people, a buffer I like to think of as God.” S. Kim Henson

When John accused me of isolating, he mixed up his words and instead said, “It concerns me how much you’re insulating yourself from others.”

“I know you don’t mean that as a good thing, but insulating to me sounds like a safe haven,” I said.

Ever since that evening, when I catch myself staying at home more often and staying away from people a little more, I say, “Here I go insulating again.”

And it’s okay. I’ve accepted and figured out ways to deal with being afraid of people, especially ones who know how I should live.

We all judge, but there are variations of judgment. Some are good judgments and some are bad. Some are accurate and some inaccurate. Some seem fairer and more reasonable than others.

Some friends judge in negative ways and know they shouldn’t. I’ve done it myself and way too many times. We know we don’t really know how others should live.

Some judge and know they’re right. These friends scare me.

When I detached from my family of origin, a friend confronted me in a restaurant about my decision. One of my mom’s friends confronted me from behind the register at a gift shop. I put my purchase back on the glass shelf and walked out. A local reader of my blog sent an email warning me I should visit my mom or I’d regret it. None of these townspeople knew much, if anything, about my family’s dysfunction, disorders, and secrets, yet they judged.

When I couldn’t be there for a friend who lost her son, I wrote a blog post about doing the best I could, which meant showing up at a distance. The post, Compassion, aroused a judgmental response that said I should have been there for her. I chose not to share it in the comment section.

I could write on and on about how afraid I’ve been of people this election year. Their fierceness behind knowing they are right scares me and stirs up feelings of being judged, feelings that my choice of a candidate couldn’t possibly be right if it’s not the same as their choice.

While writing this and thinking about how I’ve vacillated between isolating and insulating, I looked up the two words. They showed up as synonyms in a couple of online resources, but I have no idea why. They feel very different when I’m living them.

Here are definitions that resonated and made the most sense for this post.

Isolate – having minimal contact or little in common with others.
Synonyms: solitary, lonely, companionless, friendless; secluded, cloistered, segregated, unsociable, reclusive, hermitic, lonesome, cutoff

Insulate – protect by interposing material that prevents the loss of heat or the intrusion of sound.
Synonyms: wrap, sheathe, cover, coat, encase, enclose, envelop; heatproof, soundproof; pad, cushion

I’ve isolated so people wouldn’t find out how afraid I was of them and how afraid I’ve been of just about everything. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose by putting up walls and a façade.

I was wrong because I lost myself.

By never letting anyone know me, I shut myself off from everyone including John and our two adult children. I remember our son’s bewildered face the evening at our mountain house when he questioned some of my choices, like no longer exercising and staying on Facebook for hours at a time. I admitted I was depressed. He had no idea and neither did our daughter.

John helped me distinguish between isolation and insulation, even if by accident.

blog empty roomI no longer want to isolate and keep people at a far off distance. It’s depressing to be solitary and secretive.

Insulation, on the other hand, has turned out to be the gift of learning to live among people and letting them know who I am. It’s the gift of blogging again.

 At the same time that I’m showing up, I also keep a space between us – a gentle breeze, a buffer I like to think of as God – so I can make my own judgments, as well as accepting others’ conclusions whether I agree with them or not.

It’d be helpful to hear ways you’ve taken care of yourself while living among and loving family, friends, and the not so friendly.

In this Together,
Kim

On the side: I’m learning from Summer Turner’s pilot program, Move Forward from INSIDE Your Comfort Zone, about how introversion has influenced my life, which in turn influenced this blog post. I’ll share more information and links when she launches her online course.

Saved By Criticism (in writing and in relationships)

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“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” Norman Vincent Peale

Below is a link to one of the best blog posts I’ve read about the value of criticism. I believe it applies to healthier daily living and enriched relationships the same as it applies to improved writing. Dan Balow writes about family and friends who, though well meaning when they praise our writing, actually turn out to be misleading culprits who tell us our work is far better than it is.

This reminds me of a friend who asked my opinion about a book she planned to self publish. Since I’m in the business, I thought she wanted the truth, although I wasn’t comfortable telling her all I thought. It crossed my mind that maybe she only wanted a pat on the back, but I really wanted to help her improve the book. I gave a couple of ideas to see if she was okay with my feedback. Unfortunately, she wasn’t, even though my review was cautious. Her book didn’t sell like she hoped and our relationship never was the same – all a lesson to me about graciously accepting criticism.

When I began my writing career in 2007, I surprised my husband and myself by handling critiques and rejections better than either of us expected. I’m sensitive, so we wondered if a career full of this sort of thing was a good idea. I guess I recognized my writing wasn’t going to improve without some level of support and honesty. It probably helped that my first editor who I respect and like said more than once, “Writing is rewriting” and “There are two kinds of writers: ones who are still learning and bad ones.”

That brings me around to my critique group that meets an hour and a half from where I live. I haven’t always appreciated the long commute, but I have valued the distance. When I first attended, I was grateful I only knew the members as fellow writers since we didn’t live in the same town. That way, our feedback to each other wasn’t influenced by friendship. We are now friends, but since we started on the “write” foot, foremost in our relationship with each other is still the honesty (and, yes, criticism) we share during our meetings.

I’m not suggesting we stand by and be criticized by anyone who has an opinion. However, if I trust that you care about me and I trust that you know what you’re talking about, I’ll listen and then try to put your suggestions into print and practice. Like Winston Churchill said, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Heaven help those who have no one to tell him or her the truth or those who won’t listen to anyone who tries. I’m fortunate to be encircled by people who care enough to criticize me and I’m grateful I can hear them. For me, speaking the critical truth takes more courage than hearing it, but I want to care enough to share that responsibility as well.

At least in part (I repeat, in part), criticism is what critique groups are about, criticism is what friendships are about, and criticism is what marriage and parenting are about.

Do you have people you trust to tell you what you need to hear? Do you listen? Are you honest with others?

Click here to read Bad Reviews by Dan Balow (from The Steve Laube Agency Blog).

Stalling (a post about honesty)

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“No legacy is so rich as honesty.” William Shakespeare

“No legacy is so rich as honesty.”
William Shakespeare (Artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts)

Stalling. I’ve done a lot of it lately.

I put off posting on my blog because I was afraid of what you might think. Afraid I’d be misunderstood and judged. And the worst, afraid I’d be told I shouldn’t feel the way I already do.

After thinking through all that, I wasn’t up for sharing about our daughter’s ultrasound, the one that showed the sex of our grandbaby.  We’re having a granddaughter, by the way.

A month after hearing the news and I couldn’t be happier about Claire. Originally, though, I couldn’t have been more scared.

Oh, Claire’s just fine. My fear is about matters of the heart, you know. Isn’t it always?

I wrote Claire’s blog post the week we got home from seeing the ultrasound. I rewrote it the next day, the next week, and the week after that. Finally, I put it away.

When I tried writing something else, nothing fit in the place of Claire. When you read it, you’ll probably wonder why it was hard to share, but this is the kind of relationship I have with my blog posts.

The problem is, my honesty scares me.

I argue for a little less transparency, although I’m not sure why I bother. I’ve threatened to abandon my blog altogether even after reading confirmation from other writers. In her post “Me Too” by Heather Kopp, she writes about readers relating more to what’s wrong in our lives than to what’s right. She says it helps others when we’re willing to tell the hard stories.

So I figure, let Heather be honest and I’ll write fluff. The problem is (yeah, there’s another one), it’s not working. Fluff and I never did get along, probably because of what my husband says, “You’re too honest for your own good” – whatever that means.

Okay, so maybe I know what he means. I also know he’s trying to help, but I’m grasping more each day that …

Honesty is for my own good, and it’s the legacy I want to leave my children and grandchildren.

Do you stall when it comes to telling the truth about your life? It’s all about fear, isn’t it?

Write wHere I’m supposed to be – Writing about why I’m not posting seemed the best idea for now. At least I’m showing up. I believe God’s okay with it too since he sent two guest bloggers for April.

On the side: Beth Pensinger’s blog post appeared last week. Beth Vogt’s post will go live this Wednesday – you won’t want to miss it. And, yes, Claire’s way-too-personal (for me) blog post about matters of the heart will be posted before the end of April.

Click here for more artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts.

We Know, No Matter What Anyone Tells Us (a post about being honest)

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“I’m fat, aren’t I?” she said.

Instead of gently responding that maybe exercise and an eating plan may help, I spent hours telling her what I thought she wanted to hear, that she wasn’t overweight at all.

When a mutual friend reproached another about being terribly negative, the accused friend turned to me and began explaining how she had given up the habit of pessimism years ago. Then she asked if I thought our friend was right. Even though my friend’s negativity seemed glaringly obvious, I said, “No, of course not. You’re not negative.”

“If you truly want honesty, don’t ask questions you don’t really want the answers to.” Proverb quote
(Artwork by Cindy DeLuz)

I suspect my people pleasing answers were not helpful, but I didn’t have it in me to be honest with either friend, even though they asked.

These days I lean toward answering with compassion, but also with at least some forthrightness.

However, it makes me wonder why we even ask these sorts of questions.

Like after our second child was born and I asked my husband two weeks later if I looked like I lost all my weight. He lovingly said, “No, not quite.”

I cried and cried, although probably not because of what he said. I just wanted him to buy me some time before I faced the mirror.

I cried because I already knew. 

What question do you keep asking even though the answer is obvious?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – If we have to ask, we probably already know the answer. It’s best to give up trying to finagle a way out, and get on with changing what needs changing.

On the side: For more inspiration and artwork, check out Cindy DeLuz’s blog.

Pause For a Moment of Kindness

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"The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause." Mark Twain (Photo from iStock)

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” Mark Twain (Photo from iStock)

“I would shoot for 100% honesty, then moderate it with silence” was a comment from a male reader on the post Looking for the Liars. 

The definition of honesty is fairness and straightforwardness of conduct. Instead of the lie I told the pastor when he asked, “Did you sign the visitor’s book?”, a fair and straightforward response would have been, “Not today. Maybe next time.”

I can do that.

However, “moderate it with silence” makes me cringe, even more than the lie.

When I give a straightforward response, an explanation seems necessary especially if an uncomfortable quiet comes over the conversation. After all,  my original statement created the silence, so obviously I’m responsible for filling it.

In my defense, and in the defense of every female friend I’ve heard make way too many excuses, psychotherapist Dr. Barton Goldsmith’s article in Psychology Today cites women talk at 250 words per minute. Men talk at 125. Goldsmith said Gary Smalley, author of “Making Love Last Forever,” reports women speaking 25,000 words in a day compared to a man only speaking 12,000.

“Moderate it with silence” … yeah, easy for him to say.

All the excuses, justification, reasoning and explanations are easy for us women to say.

But then, I looked up moderate. It means “lessen the intensity of, make less severe or harsh, and tone down.”

I can speak the truth gently and make the impact less intense when, once it’s said, I’m quiet. In fact, most of what I say would be less harsh if my word count was toned down.

“What you defend, you make true,” said a friend, and I think the truth of her statement shows itself in conversations. An acquaintance asked if I’d like to join her for lunch. I preferred to run errands because I wouldn’t have time again until the weekend. I listed several reasons why I couldn’t go. When she finally got in a word, she said, “It’s fine if you don’t want to go.”

No, that’s not what I said. Or was it? My run-on excuses would have sounded kinder if I had shortened it to, “I have a busy afternoon so I’ll have to pass.”

Holding tight to the period is the hard part.

I want to give at least one excuse so the uncomfortable silence seems gentler. Gentleness’ synonym is quietness. I’ll have to chew on that for a while … probably a good thing since I’m not supposed to talk with my mouth full.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I am willing to practice being kind by way of truth and quiet.

Looking for the Liars, a post about honesty and kindness

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"Don't go justifying your mouth with God's words." S. Kim Henson

“Don’t go justifying your mouth with God’s words.”
S. Kim Henson

“We’re members of the Presbyterian church in Conway, but we’re visiting around. We thought it may be time to move our memberships to the beach.”

“You signed one of the visitor’s book, right?” the pastor asked.

“Sure did,” I said.

My husband and I walked silently to our car. When we were out of earshot, I said, “Are you upset?

“Why would I be upset?”

“Well, let’s see – I just sat in church for an hour, prayed, sang hymns, prayed some more, listened to a sermon, walked outside, shook the pastor’s hand and thanked him for a great sermon,” I said.

“Then I lied to him.”

“So, what should you have said? Nope, we didn’t sign it and don’t want to.”

“Should we go back and put our names in the book? You know, in case he looks,” I said.

“No, I don’t want to be bothered until we decide where we want to attend,” he said.

My husband put an end to our debate.

At first, all I could think about was the verse, “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.”

But then I grew defensive.

When a friend told another friend the event she invited us to was long and boring, was that necessary?

And when an acquaintance told one of our book club members that others thought her kids were bratty, was that really for the sake of truthfulness?

And the church member who refused to give tickets for a choir event to another member, telling her it was because her husband was a bartender – was that sincerity or condemnation?

I know God didn’t say, “When you’re following along in the Bible, use your common sense.” My goodness, we’d have a free-for-all in interpreting every verse our own way. But then, if we’re honest, don’t we do that anyway?

And if we’re going to play by our own rules, it seems a better idea to at least play nice.

Laying in bed tonight, just before I realized I wasn’t going to sleep until I wrote this post, my husband laughed out loud. When I asked what was so funny, he said, “He’s probably still there, looking through the visitor’s books. Still looking for the liars.”

In the dilemma of being truthful without crossing the line to unkindness, what are your thoughts?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – My husband often tells me, “You’re too honest for your own good. People don’t want to hear it.” He’s right. Especially since I’ve figured out maybe, just maybe, it’s kinder not to try to straighten everyone out. Today I want to be kind enough for other’s good and honest enough for my own good.