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Love Means Honesty That Can Be Painful

Love Means Honesty That Can Be Painful

Because staying silent is the opposite of loving

Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it — then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. — H. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled

I read this book several years ago and it changed my life and thinking in numerous ways. One of the most profound, memorable passages I read from this book goes something like this:

When you truly love someone, and if you see that person doing things that either hurt themselves or hurt others, you say something.

Real love dares to speak up because watching someone you love do things that hurt themselves or others would be too painful to stand by silently and watch.

When you love someone, you choose the immediate pain and awkwardness of saying something, over the long-term certain pain of saying nothing.

When you love someone, you dare to, in a sense, “risk the relationship” by potentially making them angry, in saying something important and honest because you love them. Something that needs to be said.

I found this to be life and thought-changing.

Before I’d assumed that when you love someone, you leave them to their own choices and that’s that.

The above passage of loving honesty does not mean you try and control people. It doesn’t mean you lord over them. It doesn’t mean you continually beat them over the head with a certain important truth you feel they need to see in their life.

It does mean you say something, at least once, because you love them and cannot bear to see them hurting themselves (or others) this way. You say something in the hopes that, by drawing attention to it and speaking up, maybe you’ll shine a light on something they didn’t realize or see that’s harming them.

That maybe, you can help them shift their choices for the better. Speaking up means not enabling and going along with their hurtful choices as a silent bystander and accomplice, but letting them know you aren’t down with it and are troubled by what you see. That you love them, but you are worried by some of their decisions.

Some examples of things your loved ones might be doing that cause harm to either themselves or those around them (and about which you should likely speak up about lovingly) could include:

(Note: For clarification purposes, a loved one can be a spouse, close friend, sibling, your parents, your child, etc)

  • Your loved one is having an affair
  • Your loved one is drinking or using drugs to cope with emotional issues, or, they are using substances quite frequently in general
  • Your loved one is struggling with significant depression and doesn’t seem to be seeking any solutions
  • Your loved one has gained weight beyond a healthy range
  • Your loved one seems hateful, hostile, angry, and is spewing this kind of talk and thinking a lot of the time
  • Your loved one is staying in a relationship that seems to upset them a lot of the time
  • Your loved one eats a lot of sugar (or, eats quite unhealthy in other ways) and you worry about this
  • Your loved one is treating the other people in their life with unkindness, anger, defensiveness, manipulation, dishonesty, etc.

Speaking up when you observe behaviors in your loved one that is likely hurting either themselves or others?

This is the utmost in love.

I define love thus: The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.― M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth

One quick caveat here: Some people think that honesty means delivering a harsh, unvarnished, cutting truth. Not so. You can be honest while still being loving and careful about it. Be truthful, without being nasty or hateful. Speak up, without being mean.

However, on the flip side of this point, just because something is hard to hear, and just because it causes pain in the recipient, does not mean it shouldn’t have been said.

It’s loving someone to dare to make them angry and to dare to cause tension in the relationship between you because you cannot bear to say nothing in the face of the harmful choices they are making. It’s also the opposite of cowardice (which is to say nothing because it’s easier).

Move out or grow in any dimension and pain as well as joy will be your reward. A full life will be full of pain― M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth

Real love is speaking up out of care, love, concern, and worry.

It’s hoping that your loving thoughts and insights will prompt a shift that might better their life.

And even if it doesn’t? At least they have heard these important insights from an outsider, ones they might not have thought of until you said them, by someone who loves them.

Even if nothing changes right away? Your words might serve as seeds planted which, later on, will flourish into change and different choices. You never know.

 Your loving honesty is a gift. It’s also an opportunity. 

One they can either reject and dismiss or consider and potentially use to improve their life. That choice is theirs.

But, if you say nothing, they are not even given this chance.

Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit.―M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth

In conclusion: when you love someone, you speak up when you see them doing things that either are likely hurting themselves or hurting those around them. This is the braver, loving thing.

Silence is cowardice, it’s avoidance, it’s disconnected, and it’s the opposite of loving. This does not mean beating them over the head with it. This also does not mean being harsh or unkind.

It does mean speaking up at least once, though more ideally, probably a few times on different occasions, to let them know what you see, why you’re worried, and that you are saying something because you love them and want them to live as wonderful, healthy, and happy a life as they can.

Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and wisdom.―M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth

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