Life rule #2 / Avoid telling the truth

12:00:00 AM

Adrian Tan gave a commencement speech called “Life and How To Survive It” to a graduating class in the National University of Singapore. My friend Pauline gave me a copy of his speech, and it got me to re-think my life and my priorities. He gave four rules:

  1. Do not work.
  2. Avoid telling the truth.
  3. Be hated.
  4. Love someone.
As the title implies, this is about the second rule.
Truer words have not been spoken
(image from the internet)
If you look up the word “frank” in the dictionary, you just might find my picture there. My aunts and uncles fondly remind me of how I bullied my other cousins as a child - I told them to their faces if I didn’t approve of their clothes, their toys, etc. I really don’t remember most of the stories, and I especially don’t recall doing the things that they said I did. Going through high school with a lot (and I mean a lot) of phonies and plastics, I took great pride in being true. I was very stringent in my personal standards for honesty. This gave me a share of enemies, but it earned me respect, and friends that will last a lifetime.

Despite my gains, however, I’ve come to realize that the truth may not always be the thing to set a person free. Adrian Tan said, “The truth has a great capacity to offend and injure. It takes great maturity to appreciate the value of silence.” I agree with him; sometimes, silence is the answer. If not silence, then the truth said kindly, and/or with some of the necessary omissions.
Sometimes, it's absolutely necessary.
(photo from the internet)
Some might argue that Adrian Tan’s second rule applies more to the corporate world since we’re all expected to be honest with our partners and our friends, anyway. It seems more natural for people practice silence in the office, despite the fact that there really are folks who want to be verbally lambasted. But I really think the rule should be applied more to personal relationships, and a little less in the office (because the only thing necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing!).

Anyhow, being in a relationship (whether it’s romantic or friendly) doesn’t mean everything needs to be said every single time. We need to be more careful about what we say (and when and how, too!), because we have the power to make them happy and unhappy. We don’t always have to have the last say. We don’t always have to win arguments. We don’t always have to say something. Even when it’s very tempting to talk, we must remember that there are times when silence (ironically) gets more points across than speaking.

I have learned to appreciate silence. I’m happy to note that my friends have pointed out that I’ve gone from being brutally frank to simply being “brutally honest only when absolutely needed” (take note, I said 'needed,' not 'provoked'). And I sleep so much better knowing that I don't hurt people with my words.


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