“Honesty, without gentleness, is nothing but brutality … Gentleness, without honesty, is nothing but sentimentality.” – Fr. Emmerich Vogt
As individual each of us has our own personal views on a number of issues, happenings and current events. We also have our own views about people, politics and problems that abound around us. Yet when it comes to expressing ourselves, the vast majority of us would articulate views that would be acceptable to those around us. Yet there are times when we may get very passionate about the point of view and we could suddenly become brutally honest perhaps to our own surprise too. Other times, when the issue is very tricky and perhaps forces us to restrain ourselves, we would be extremely diplomatic and make polite noises without really committing ourselves. In all the cases, what we are really doing is attempting to being balanced when communicating.
It is important for us to be aware of how we need to be balanced. While honesty is still the best policy, conveying the honest truth especially if it is not easily acceptable or it is terrible news or it is a true but offensive observation should be gently broken and in the right setting. News about death, about bankruptcy, about a terrible defeat, terminal illnesses etc. are some examples of communication that needs to be honest but conveyed gently. Death of a loved one, particularly a young one no matter what the cause, is always a painful and agonizing moment of truth for there is a finality that is stark and irreversible. Perhaps that is the reason why we would rather chose a doctor, a priest, an elderly family member to convey such news for they are presumed to have maturity and the authority to effectively convey such news. Annual appraisals are moments in a corporate executive’s life, that brings both dread and hope. The most painful part is not the outcome of the appraisal but the ordeal of having to endure the feedback particularly if the person conveying the feedback has a reputation for plain speaking, is rough rude and ruthless.
On the other hand, if we look back at our school days, we would perhaps look back with regret that we often despised those teachers who were tough in their assessment, frank in their approach and ruthless in their discipline. We may have actually despised their mannerism more than their communication. With the benefit of experience and age we may have concluded that the tough teachers actually molded us better. On the other hand , those who were willing to overlook our weakness, turned a blind eye to our eroding scruples and those who curried favor by being goody goody may have actually hampered our growth. By their gentle but not so truthful ways, they let us persist with our weakness, did not light up the right path and seriously negatively impacted our impressionable minds. We grew up without the firm moorings that would let us drop anchor in the right port of life.
Being balanced therefore means walking a tightrope. It is challenging to be both tough when required and gentle when needed for it is not an easy decision to make. More seriously we must not make the mistake of being sentimental fools nor brutal tyrants for our attitude, behavior, thinking and actions will have an impact not only on us but on all those who are influenced by us.
Remember: Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. Thomas Merton
- Recollect the names of at least 3 people who have had a major influence on your life. At least one of them must be someone who has been tough on you and yet you believe they had a positive influence on you. Outline 3 reasons why they influenced you positively.
- Your assistant is a technical expert who is working on a project that is just days away from being finished. If the deadline is not met there could be heavy penalties. The assistant had got his leave a sanctioned month earlier to attend his brother in law’s (wife’s brothers) wedding. However without his expertise the project will have an overrun and you have the power to overrule his leave. How will you tackle the situation?
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