On Honest Advice

If I was in the Peanut's cartoon my lemonade stand banner wouldn't read: "Advice. 5¢".  It would read: "Exactly What You Want to Hear 5¢".

Because, I've always believed people know best about their own lives. My job, as a friend is to encourage, and to stand behind every decision. Losing my cool, scolding, saying "oh my gosh this is an absolute nightmare!" ... I leave that up to Dr. Phil.

Giving advice is a scary thing. Usually the advice-seeker will just carry on - doing whatever they wanted all along. But what if they take my advice? and what if I'm wrong?

This fear has made me stick to what I'm good at. I put on my rose-colored glasses and play my part. People come to me when they need someone to tell them yes.  And, I give the people what they want.

A passage in the book, The Help, started me thinking about advice, and about honesty. It was a candid conversation between two of the three narrators, both of them maids in the south during the 1960s.

The dialogue ended in:
"I think you done made made your point, Aibileen."
"I'm sorry, honey. But you my best friend. And I think you got something pretty good out there" (p. 267)

Maybe my instinct to nod and agree is a cultural thing. I often listen enviously to the girls on the bus. They can tell eachother the honest-to-god truth, quarrel, and go back to laughing all before the next stop comes. If my peers were all like this, just a little more guileless, my skin would be thicker. And I would be more honest too.

Loving someone means I want them to be happy. Not just happy in the moment, when I say the right thing. Not just when I affirm their plans. But, in the long run. Honest words, that come from a good place, are the most loving words one can give. Even more loving than the words I agree.


  1. my friends come to me for the truth. it's most really abouy advice, because i try to steer clear of that, but rather - this is what i honestly think about this.

    when you say the most loving words are the honest ones, well, it depends what we mean by that. because there is also the need to be honest to oneself. and if your character is to be the supporter, the yes friend, then it's being true to who you are. no?

    i also think it depends on your friends, as you suggest. right now i live in a community where at least 2 of the women are very defensive. i know it's best for everyone if i stick closer to diplomacy than honesty. ;)

  2. I absolutely love this post!
    I'm the type to want honest words BEYOND anything that might make me comfortable or happy for the moment.

    You're a great writer!

  3. I can sympathize with you on so many levels, Sam. And Monica has a good point, too, about being true to yourself. What I've learned in my friendships is that if you're not honest with your friends when they seek your counsel, resentment can grow because at some point, one or both of you realize that honesty would have been better for them in the long run. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of telling people what I think they should be doing with their lives. I don't think that mutual trust comes from accurately predicting the right decisions for one another; rather, it comes from knowing that your friend did their best to tell you honestly, candidly and tactfully what was on their mind, with your best interest at heart.

  4. Monica and Bethany : you both always leave the most insightful comments. I've thought a lot about what you said since I posted. Thanks for making this a dialogue.

  5. Thanks for being the friend who--when I need you to--can start out with a "Giiiirrrrllll,...." :)


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