In honor of mother’s day coming up this Sunday, I asked myself, “What is the most important lesson my mother taught me?” Thank you, Billy Joel, for saying it so well.
“Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.”
My mother’s greatest gift to me is the gift of truth. Truth, as she sees it. Unvarnished, tactless, reliable, trustworthy truth. Would that I had her courage to tell it, as she does.
People who tell the truth suffer for it. Most people really don’t want to hear the truth. They do not want to hear it about our government, if the government is doing something bad. That bad news would imply they would have to exert themselves to do something about it. People don’t want to hear the truth about today’s economy; how often are we told not to say anything negative about the economy for fear it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Certainly people do not want to hear the truth about themselves- that’s a huge no-no.
Just yesterday I was confronted with this very dilemma. A friend of mine showed me a picture taken of her of which she was truly proud. Who am I to say that the dress didn’t flatter her figure at all? That she should not have let someone else talk her into wearing it and posing that way? Not I, the chicken. I assessed the risk vs. reward. The risk was hurting my friend’s feelings, and to what end? The picture was already taken- it was out there, soon to be published. The reward? That I would be honest with her, that she would know that she could rely on my honesty, in a world full of yesmen and flatterers. I ducked. She didn’t ask my opinion, and I didn’t volunteer it. Dishonest, tactful, or just chicken? I vote cluck.
What would my mother have done? Her first instinct would have been to volunteer her opinion. How many friends she lost because she needed to tell her version of the truth. I watched those averted faces, observed the body language of those who shunned her honesty. My dad kept those opinions to himself, even when asked. Ever the diplomat, he was everyone’s pal, but no one’s true confidant. My mother was the true friend, but only if you value sincerity.
I take the middle road. In personal matters, if asked an opinion by someone I care about, I tell my truth, but only after that person affirms that they really want to hear my version of truth. I never assume it. I try not to volunteer but rather to wait until asked. I’m a master at interpreting negative reactions.
Political matters are a lot easier. My version of the truth is the truth- didn’t you know? Just listen to my radio show.
Thank you, my most wonderful mother, for giving me the one gift that no one else in the world could have given me- the gift of knowing the difference between truth and falsehood, between insincere flattery and candid compliments, between pretentiousness and authenticity.
Happy Mother’s Day Mommy for letting me count on you to tell me the truth as you see it. As we know, the way you see it is usually the way it is.
This Friday and Saturday on Live! with Lisa, www.livewithlisaradio.com, I’ll be asking listeners to call in and tell me: What is the Most Important Lesson Your Mother Taught You? Find us on Friday between 10:00AM-12:Noon on www.wybc.com, and call in at 203-562-1340. On Saturday between 10:30- Noon, call us at 203-845-3030.
Happy Mother’s Day to you too.