Truth with Kindness

Honesty with kindness is the cornerstone of any relationship. Often people are afraid to be truly honest, fearing the other person will get hurt or angry and go away.

Freud said our biggest drive in life is sex. Around 1918, Adler disagreed with Freud and stated that belonging was our greatest drive. Being honest thus threatens our basic need to belong, challenging us to be mature, to do the difficult thing, and risk rejection or disapproval.

Being kind isn’t always nice. As a child, my daughter would get angry at me for making her brush her teeth and tell me how mean I was. To her, making her brush her teeth wasn’t nice; however, we all know it was kind.

Sometimes I need to say things to my clients that are hard for them to hear. When I feel a client is stuck in a “poor me” pattern, to not tell them is to treat them with pity or a lack of respect, and to see them as too pathetic or weak to hear the truth. Of course, when I say such a thing, I do so without judgment. I recognize it is just a pattern, and we all have a few goofy patterns that don’t work.

Some time back, I told a client, “You’ve been struggling with depression for 10 years.” He looked at me for a long time, then burst into laughter and said, “Well I guess I just got busted!” We proceeded to work on how to stay out of “poor me” when he fell into it, and how to pull out of it. Three months later, he told me he wished he had known about “poor me” 10 years earlier.

A true friend is one who will be honest about what they like or don’t like, what they want or don’t want, and when they are angry or sad or hurt. It takes a lot of courage to speak our truth with kindness. Yet when you speak your truth, not only does your relationship become stronger because you let the person know who you truly are, but you get to know yourself better as well.

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