You put your groceries on the counter and stare as they move on without you. A block of chocolate, some raspberries, and a tiny tub of your favourite Ben and Jerry’s. As the cashier is helping the fussy old man in front of you, you consider going back to the chip aisle and buying those sweet chilli and sour cream Grain Waves. But the man finally accepts that he’s been given the right change and your moment passes.
“Hi, how are you today?” the cashier asks, as she scans your things and organises them in a plastic bag.
“I’ve been better,” you say, pulling out your wallet and taking out your debit card.
“Oh, that’s too bad,” she says, tapping away at her touch screen to perform some unknown supermarket voodoo. “Paying by card?”
“Yeah,” you sigh, and hand over the plastic. “My dog, he died today. Enlarged heart. There was nothing they could do.”
You choke up a little on the last few words and wipe the tears from under your eyes while pretending you’re just scratching your face. The cashier finally looks at you, her eyes widening. She falters in her rehearsed performance, looking lost.
“I’m so sorry,” she says. She hands back your card.
“Thank you,” you reply. You slide card back into your wallet and the plastic bag over your wrist before you exit. You don’t look back. And so you don’t see what happens next.
“Lara, can you go on break please?” asks the obese manager who has waddled over from the service desk.
“Sure thing,” she replies. She gets up from her little stool and follows the manager to the staff room.
“So get this. I just had this crazy lady in here, crying over her dead dog. I mean, who does that? In public?”
How many of you out there have been in a similar situation to the one above? I bet there are a few of you. Only instead of being honest and telling the cashier the truth, you usually say “I’m fine”, “Good, thanks”, or “I’m alright, and you?” even though as soon as you get into your car, you are 90% likely to burst into tears or punch the head rest.
Truth and honesty have no real place in society anymore. You don’t believe me? Consider the following:
When someone asks you if you need help with something, you usually say no, don’t you? Whether it’s dinner or the washing up or bringing in the laundry, you almost always say no. And why? Because it’s the social construct. Someone has been “nice enough” to ask if you need help, so you reward them by saying “no, but thanks”, even though you may really want help. And if you say that you do need their help, you can almost always see the “what, really? You lazy bitch” expression on the other person’s face.
“Honey, does this look OK?” your girlfriend asks you, walking out of the bedroom in a dress that just doesn’t do her justice.
“You look beautiful,” you say, even though it’s not the truth and you think she’d look better in that black dress she wore to your brother’s birthday dinner.
Why is it, in the above scenario, that the truth is so hard to hear? Why is it horrible to hear that something you put on your body makes you look terrible even though you yourself look fine? Why can’t we tell people “yes, those jeans make you look fat. Why don’t you try a different cut? Or a skirt maybe?”.
Because no one wants to know the truth. They want you to make them feel good. If you tell them the truth it is too hard for them to hear, because they’re expecting a compliment.
OR THE BIG ONE
“Tell me what you really think!”
This happened to me early last year. My then-boyfriend stood in front of me and demanded that I give him my honest opinion. The short background to this is that he had just been fired from a job that I had gotten him about a month before. He talked back to the boss, actually had a bit of a screaming match with said boss, and whenever he was angry, he was hostile and short-tempered around the store (we worked at Subway), making the rest of us feel on edge. He has never been good with authority. He was fired the shift after he basically told the boss that she was a bitch. So when he asked me for my honest to God opinion about whether it was fair that he got fired, I told him that it was. And he blew up at me.
When someone asks you to tell them the truth, they don’t mean it. They want you to confirm their opinions or beliefs or emotions by saying you agree with them under the binds of honesty so that they can feel validated. If you don’t agree with them, you are the worst person in the world, even though they asked for the truth.
But the worst kind of silence is the silence we keep because we’re afraid of the consequences. Not telling our friends, families, boyfriends, or girlfriends the truth because we’re afraid of hurting them or that they won’t love us anymore or we’re playing into omission bias – which is when we refuse to make a decision because that decision may hurt someone else.
We don’t tell people when they’ve hurt us because we don’t want to have the uncomfortable conversation. We don’t tell people when we’re angry or annoyed with them because we don’t want to hurt the other person. But what about us? What about all of the feelings we keep bottled up inside because society tells us constantly that we aren’t actually allowed to express them?
You know the one I’m talking about, right? The friend who is constantly on your radar. Constantly messaging you. All of your social media notifications are from them. They come to you with all of their problems and then as soon as you start to tell them about yours, the conversation magically turns back to them again.
That last one really annoys me. I was having a really hard time with one of my psychology lectures, right? It was about suicide. And I’ve had a few people in my life attempt it, or are struggling with depression and I’m worried that they’ll attempt it. So I saw that this friend was online and I tried to talk to them about it. All I got was an “Oh wow, that sucks. Kind of reminds me of my ex leaving me” and I was stuck sitting there like…when did this become all about you? And how is that in anyway the same thing?
Then the second you consider telling them how you really feel, they tell you that they’re sad or that you’re their best friend (or only friend) or something to that effect. So you put your anger and frustration into a spill proof container and let the cycle continue.
And why? Because we don’t want to hurt them. Even though they’re the ones hurting us.
Then there are the darker, more serious consequences of silence. I bet you can think of so many examples. Staying silent when someone is being bullied, or being discriminated against, or any of the other horrible scenarios where we should stand up and say something, only we don’t. And you know why? Because staying silent has become something that we do on a daily basis. When you speak up, tell the truth, be real, you’re considered weird or an activist or something out of the ordinary. When all you’re really doing is telling the truth, a concept so shocking to people that they don’t know how to handle it when they are faced with it.
My rant is done now. I’m just going to leave you with this: