I’m a coward

I had intended to be brutally honest yesterday, but fell short of doing so. I found the ideas articulated in the article “The Brutally Honest Guide to Being Brutally Honest” by Josh Tucker instructive and got a bit sidetracked writing about that.

Well, I have to tell you something, and you may not like to hear it. But if you struggle with the art of being frank, you need to hear this. It will make you a better person, a better communicator and a better blogger.
So here it is …
You’re a coward.
If you can’t be brutally honest with people, especially when you know it’s in their best interest, you’re a coward.
You’re not doing anyone a favor by withholding a truth from them, even if it’s difficult for them to hear.
The only person you’re protecting is yourself. Because you’re afraid of the consequences to you.
But it’s not about you.
Being honest is about making sure your audience has the information they need to make good decisions. That includes information they may not like.


Yesterday, I had intended to write about what I felt about the resurrection of Jesus described in the Bible. I danced around the idea. Talked about medical resuscitation as coming back from the dead. Gave a short excerpt of the creation story Robin Wall Kimmerer wrote in Braiding Sweetgrass.

I realized there are stories that must exist in all cultures, that are about two things we can’t truly understand. About the miracle of birth and the impossibility of understanding death. The beginning and the end of life as human beings.

The problem is not everything Josh Tucker wrote about being honest applies when dealing with faith and beliefs. He was writing about facing facts. Or at least ideas that can be supported factually, to the best of one’s knowledge at the time.

Speaking in terms of faith and beliefs imply those ideas cannot be proven in the scientific sense. That doesn’t make those ideas less important than factual knowledge. I contend our cultural stories are central to our lives. We need stories to give our whole life context. An explanation of how our life begins and ends. And guidance for how we live between those two ends.

After thinking and writing about brutal honesty for the past several days, have I reached to point of saying this honesty doesn’t apply to beliefs, to matters of faith? I think there are several parts of the answer.

  • In matters of faith and belief we should always remember others have beliefs that are valid for themselves. It is not our place to judge in these areas where logic and science can’t be used for proof. I can say I don’t believe in a virgin birth. I don’t believe in resurrection after three days of not being alive. That doesn’t mean others can vilify what I believe. And it also doesn’t mean I can say their beliefs are wrong.
  • That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t share our faith and beliefs. Why do so many people participate in organized religions? In part because we are all learning as we go through life. Especially in difficult times we might question what we believe. We might find support in what others believe. I think most of us realize we learn as we go through life experiences. Those experiences can change what we believe. If our faith isn’t rigid, we can be open to learning from the experiences of others.
  • But in matters of logic and science, we can and should be brutally honest. We can attempt to change the minds of those who, for whatever reason, choose not to believe things like environmental science. I guess those people have chosen to make their views a belief. And as we’ve seen facts and logic have little or no effect on their beliefs. That doesn’t make their beliefs true.

Lately there have been significant efforts to cast doubt on the sciences. While there have been times when new knowledge gives us a new way to look at part of science, such as quantum mechanics, they don’t invalidate the scientific method.

It is a matter of life and death that we are brutally honest about environmental science, to better understand the impact we are having on our environment and ways to mitigate the damage being done.

Having spent my life doing medical research, I’m very familiar with scientific methods. Early in my career I got a lesson in what truth is. We had finished doing tests on a number of patients and the time came to analyze the data. The results didn’t support what we thought the result would be. I tried different ways of looking at the data to support our hypothesis. The medical director of the project taught me we had to report the data exactly as it came out. That was the truth. One of the most important lessons I ever learned. Over the next thirty years, studying hundreds of babies in multiple studies, we reported the data however it came out.

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