Monday, August 16, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Children, especially young children, are unique in their ability to tell it like it is with brutal honesty.  If you are a parent, I am sure you've had one of those moments of "did he/she just say what I heard?"  Once, my dear friend's four year old saw a photo of me online.  She instantly remarked that she liked me, liked my kids, but did not like my step-daughter's father.  None of them were in the photo she was looking at by the way.  She went so far as to say, I don't like her dad, he's mean.  This, from a four year old child who had only met him once and that was a very, very, very long time (especially to a four year old) before she made her comment.  While she is certainly entitled to her opinion, the rest of us who know him would state that she is in fact, telling the plain, unfiltered truth, that she was just telling it like it is.

I've often heard toddlers and pre-school children comment in public on the things they observe, i.e. what's wrong with that man in the wheelchair or does she have a brush, her hair is so messy, we should buy her a brush.  I myself have been on the receiving end of two four year old girls whom I love and adore and their honesty over the last year.  Both have made comments about my legs, something I'm very self conscious about until such time as they catch up with the rest of my transforming body.  If you know me in real life, you understand what I am talking about.  If you do not know me in real life, just know that I don't carry the majority of my extra weight in my gut, chest and hips, I carry the majority of it in my lower body.  Thus my favorite girls were just telling it like it is, like they saw it.  Their words were not meant to hurt me in any way, shape or form.  I actually smiled and agreed with both of them when they made their observations versus say, changing the subject or ignoring their words.

When we are young we do not know what a lie is, we have to learn it from someone else by example.  We also have no idea about tact or filtering ourselves, we have to learn that also.  Obviously there has to be a balance in the words we choose, otherwise we risk alienating others that we care for.  Nonetheless, in later adulthood I began to question the pros and cons of such things.  At my core I tend to feel that teaching tact is acceptable but teaching deceit or filtering is not.  Words can hurt.  Words can heal.  In the end though they are only words and it is up to the perception of the listener to take them with a grain of salt or internalize them for eternity.

Sometimes I think we do more damage to each other by not saying what we feel or think.  It is medically proven that those of us who hold things in, hold our truths, tend to suffer all kinds of medical conditions.  There are many authors and publications created to teach us how to find and use our voice and they are all making a pretty mint because of it.  Obviously there has to be a balance to it, as it is with everything else in life. So, if I am an advocate for telling it like it is and being non-filtered in our interactions, where does tact come in?  Tact is something we look at as being aware of the impact of our words.  One can be honest with tact versus being brutally honest.

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