If the Truth Hurts Then Shouldn’t it Come With a Warning Label?

After John and I had our one and only romantic evening, he was still texting me and sending me his columns, but all of a sudden he didn’t have time to meet for coffee or play tennis or get together at all.

So I got busy with my own life and plans and let John figure out his own issues.

Column 22 – If the Truth Hurts Then Shouldn’t it Come With a Warning Label?

(One of the things Loretta and I had in common was our love of family – we sort of lived for our kids.

For the last two weeks of November Loretta left for Mississippi, which is where her son, a Navy pilot, was stationed. She spent Thanksgiving with her boy, his wife, and their new 5 month old daughter, Loretta’s first grandchild.

I envied her that. I had hoped to spend Thanksgiving with my boys, but it just didn’t work out that way. They were pretty careful of their Mom’s feelings so went off to be with her – which left me feeling like I should put my foot down one of these years.

And left me feeling a bit mopey as well).

Have you ever known someone who died?

My mom called me one morning five years ago to tell me that Dad could no longer walk. I got in the truck and drove to their house as fast as I could. Dad was in bed when I came into his room. I showed him a big smile and asked what was up – I could tell by the worried look on his face that whatever it was, it wasn’t good.

Over the next three weeks the family gathered around him as his body continued to fail. Things that you and I take for granted he was steadily losing the ability to do. One day when it became clear to him things were getting worse and not better he asked me a question – and it was a hard question.

He asked me what was happening to him.

There were a lot of different ways I could have answered. I could’ve put a brave face on the situation and told him that things were going to be okay. I could have been vague and told him that I wasn’t completely sure. But instead I chose to be perfectly honest with him.

I told him I thought he was dying.

After I said those words he got quiet for a minute – but his eyes spoke volumes. I sensed that I’d just told him something he already knew.

The term ‘perfectly honest’ is an odd one. Sometimes honesty is very imperfect. For a long time after that day I struggled with doubts as to whether I’d done the right thing. Who was I to tell a man his life was ending? Who was I to tell him that he was fast running out of tomorrows?

Truth is a funny thing.

We all aspire to it, or say we do, but is it what’s always best? If it is why then are we so often not perfectly honest? Life is full of half-truths and prevarications – are they all wrong? When a woman in an expensive yet ill-fitting dress, which she just bought and is very proud of, asks “Does this look good on me?” what’s a guy to say?

When she asks if we want to know all about the recipe she just cooked us do we feign interest and say of course? And when she asks how serious we are about committing to a relationship with her do we tell her the absolute truth? What if the truth is that we’re just kind of seeing how it goes and we don’t know yet?

And maybe we don’t know because that’s how we get into relationships – slowly.

Telling her that you’re still making up your mind is probably not what she wants to hear. She’s likely not going to understand that is how we do it – go slow and keep it casual so we don’t feel the pressure that can lead us to bolt.

Men and women aren’t always truthful with each other and sometimes that’s okay. Last week I wrote about being a Boy Scout when I was young. You know what word never appears in the Boy Scout oath or Boy Scout law? They talk all about things like loyalty, bravery and helpfulness but the word ‘honesty’ is strikingly absent. Do the Boy Scouts know something we don’t?

After last week’s column Jenny wrote to ask me why men aren’t more honest.

The point she seemed to be making was that if men would just be honest, about everything all the time, most of the difficulties she encounters in dating wouldn’t occur. I’m not sure I agree Jenny. The way men go about dating has everything to do with getting your approval – and sometimes that means saying words intended to return a good response.

The best way to discern a man’s truth is by watching his actions. If a guy is into you he’ll show you. Words come easy – it’s deeds that count. If he really likes you, you’ll never be given cause to ask why he doesn’t call.

If you are special to him he will show you that.

And, conversely, if you are not special to him you’ll see that in his actions as well. His communication with you will be spotty. He’ll wait until late in the week to ask you out for the weekend. And if things do fall apart (not an uncommon outcome) his words may not be kind. I’ll bet lots of men find you attractive Jenny, so do you really need to hear just one of them say he doesn’t find you pretty? Or you’re a little on the heavy or thin side for him?

We meet a lot of people in the course of dating – people very different from ourselves, with different values and goals. Do you want it to work out with each and every one of them? When it doesn’t work out, which can feel frustrating at the time, I find that it’s usually for the best. After all, it didn’t work because there was some sort of disconnect – plus you’re then free to meet someone with whom you’ll be a better fit. So how many times do you really want to hear Mr. Wrong’s truths?

A woman I met in a toy store once told me that if you’re true to yourself life will bring you what you need – and who you need. And I think the truth you show yourself is the most honest truth of all.

When I told my dad I thought he was dying I was telling him something he already knew. He didn’t have to hear those words from me. But since we cared so much for each other they were the only words I could speak to him – the only truth.

John P. Gavin

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