Marty and I are idealists. My parents have thrown up their hands at us many times over the years.
We like to believe that if you approach relationships with honesty, grace, and a willingness to communicate, good things will be possible. But some people have no interest in honesty. You can’t be vulnerable with them. Not only is it not really possible, but they find it insulting and offensive.
The first move of a tyrannical government is to suppress the thoughts and speech of those who disagree with them. This creates an atmosphere of suspicion, destroying the culture. The same thing happens when your family culture sacrifices sincerity to avoid unpleasantness. A grievance between siblings shouldn’t be shushed into silence, it’s an opportunity for them to reach an understanding and improve their relationship with each other. If these opportunities are suppressed, the resulting tension is relieved with habitual snide comments, manipulation, and aggressive competition. These are not habits that make good adults.
If you try to force unwanted sincerity into a relationship, it doesn’t take long before things break down. To someone who is unused to to it, interactions tinged with aggression feel like calculated insults. For someone who can only see threats, admitting a fault looks like foolish weakness. Each side regards the other side with complete confusion. Conversations escalate into unintended rivalry. To them, competitive maneuvering is normal; to you, it’s unfriendly and aggressive.
“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”
– Oscar Wilde
We shouldn’t force honesty where it is not wanted. But almost certainly, no meaningful progress in life will be made without it. Honesty means embracing reality.