Speak Truth to Your Friends

Sunday, September 13, 2020
Glendale, California

Speak Truth to Your Friends

This morning’s Washington Post featured a disturbing story:

Woodward’s Rage is a Damning Account of Trump’s Cowering Sycophants and Enablers

The article brings to mind reflections on the crucial importance of honesty in friendship.

Yes, of course, the individuals mentioned in the article are not necessarily Trump’s friends.

But, it seems obvious that their duty for honesty would be greater than in the case of friendship.

They are in positions to influence the most powerful leader in the world.

Proverbs 27:17 reads:

Iron sharpeneth iron, so a person sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

If you’re lucky enough to enjoy intimate friendships, then you’ve heard some unsettling things from your friends.

It is inevitable.

Carl Jung called the dark, even evil, side of all of us the shadow.

Here are just a few tidbits I’ve heard from my own friends and colleagues (fictionalized to protect privacy and confidentiality):

  1. Flirtations with parties outside their primary romantic relationship;
  2. Depositing checks from professional work into personal bank accounts.
  3. Near-hatred for a daughter-in-law.
  4. Hoping for the death of a parent to enhance personal wealth.
  5. Intense envy for a more-successful person.
  6. Believing your writer-friend sabotages herself through excessive literary references.

And so on, ad infinitum.

Here’s the deal:

On the one hand, and obviously, we cannot serve as the external consciences of our friends.

It’s not our duty.

On the other hand, where else will they have the chance to face a dark part of themselves?

How else would you consider your relationships intimate?

The secret is this:

No need to be moralistic about it.

And, for Tao’s sake, don’t behave like a psychotherapist.

Just give your honest, heartfelt reaction.

You could make statements like:

I’m concerned this flirtation could hurt your marriage.

How do you think evading taxes affects our fellow members of the human family?

I know you dislike your daughter-in-law, but what about its impact on your son?

That inheritance will help you, I know, but what about the part of wishing your parent dead? Any guilt there?

I’d like to hear how having more success would truly change your life.

I know you seek validation for your ideas, but I think it would help you to emphasize your own voice.

Like the WP article suggests, as does the quote from Proverbs, honesty between friends matters.

Yes, it’s difficult.

Yes, you risk creating conflicts.

Yes, it may well open up a disruption, the course of which is unpredictable.

Nonetheless, such honesty constitutes an absolute crucial part of friendship.

In Donald Trump, we have a terrifying example how advisors holding their tongues, behaving like sycophants and enablers, can have potentially disastrous consequences.

Please don’t make it part of your own friendships.

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