“Honesty” As A Weapon

Years ago, marathon encounter groups were quite the fashion.  In the early 70’s, I attended one at the U. of Chicago where a group of strangers sat around and talked, vaguely led by someone. The group went on and on (that’s why they called it ‘marathon’) and the goal was to break down defenses and get people to be in touch with their feelings. Yes, I’m a psychologist and I do believe in feelings and emotions. I know that we learn a great deal from examining our internal lives but this exploration is usually done best in therapy or with a trusted companion rather than in a group of strangers with a half-baked leader. Anyway, back to the U of C marathon….

Some time after midnight, one woman in the group turned to another and said, “I want to be honest and tell you how I really feel about you,” and then she unloaded.  Somehow, this was supposed to be okay because it was “honest”.

I was young and pretty naïve but I knew that phrase, “I want to be honest” was trouble.  I’ve heard it since and I haven’t changed my mind.  I have seen honesty used as a cruel, aggressive weapon.  When it is used in this way, the goal isn’t to benefit the receiver of the information; it serves to release the “honest” speaker of guilt and responsibility for aggressive and cruel words.

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