So I spent this Saturday with my aunt. That aunt. I am tired, at first, so she talks. And talks. She tells me exactly what she thinks of things; my mother’s living arrangements, her middle daughter’s marriage; Farmer Gow, her grandson’s school; Woodbrooke Study Centre, my parents’ house sale. And with all of these things, the long and the short is that she does not think a lot of them. What is more, she has been unafraid to tell them (or those that run them) so.
And as I half-listen to her, and the reasons why she doesn’t like these things, with bitten tongue, I reflect. I could never do that. No, I wouldn’t be afraid to tell my parents what I think of them, with a few exceptions, but others – no way.
As in Painted Smiles, where smiles belie my own sadness, I’m very unlikely to tell anyone when they’ve made me feel angry or upset, disappointed or forgotten. Neither do I feel I can tell most people how I am really feeling. Who wants to hear me complaining how rubbish things are for me, over and again?
Then a sermon yesterday suggested we give up shallow niceness.
That stopped me where I am, because if I stopped being superficially nice to people, when I feel low, and only expressed genuine positivity, I would appear so cold and distant to a lot of people, most of the time. And if I opted for honesty, told people when they had hurt me, how I was really feeling, I would probably be asked to leave the church fairly quickly. I’m brim full of bitterness.
I know that being honest is best – and that cultivating genuine friendships requires honesty. In my head. But in my heart, being boring, disliked or turned away is a risk I can’t bear taking.