I read this post about why a “No” friend is the best friend quite some time ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Nina Badzin makes the point that there is value in having friends who will tell you when you’re being ridiculous, when you’ve lost sight of your north, when you’re just plain wrong.
I completely agree. And yet…
Where does the honesty line get drawn? What if you’re convinced your friend is about to marry Mr. or Ms. WRONG? What if you think their anger (or hurt or resentment or trust) is misplaced? What if you think the dream they’re about to chase is doomed, or (worse) that they’ve forgotten they even had a dream?
I think there’s an art to friendship. Sometimes it’s about being absolutely, unconditionally supportive (despite your own misgivings) and other times it’s about telling the truth even when you feel deeply that something precious is at risk. The art lies in knowing which times are which, of course, something I don’t always get right.
I guess that’s why the question has such a hold of me, because I know that I often misstep. I’ve been quiet when in hind sight I should have spoken up, feigned agreement when I should have voiced opposition. I’ve also been inappropriately tough, not realizing that what had been shared with me was fragile, a tender piece of heart and soul not built to withstand criticism, however constructively delivered.
Even now, looking back with all the clarity that looking back gives, there are times that seem murky to me. I’m unclear if I was right or wrong. For instance, I was relieved when a friend I love dearly broke up with her longtime boyfriend who I’d never liked. She said, “Why didn’t you tell me? Promise me you’ll tell me next time.” I promised, and then when she fell in love with someone who worried me even more, I said nothing. Now, years later, when my misgivings appear to only have been the tip of the iceberg, I still don’t know what the right thing to do was. I do know that I wasn’t willing to risk the friendship by being the “No” friend.
I would like to glibly ascribe to an easy friendship code like, “honesty is the best policy,” but as much as I value honesty, I’m not sure I think that’s always true.
What do you think? Is honesty always best? How do you decide when it isn’t? Should you strive to be the “No” friend? Am I making this harder than it has to be?