“I am a kind person.”
“I am an honest person.”
These are two things I believe to be true about myself. I want to be truthful, but when it comes at the expense of someone’s feelings, a lie sits at the tip of my tongue ready spare the person’s feelings. (Or maybe it’s to avoid the awkwardness of saying something that could be taken as hurtful?)
Last week, my husband found out he needed to lose thirteen pounds to reach a BMI under 32. (Not only do I need to meet the health requirements for discounted health insurance premiums, my spouse does to.) He then asked me, “Do you think I’m fat.”
And with that one question, honesty and kindness were matched in an emotional cage fight. I tried silence, to spare us both, but he wouldn’t have it.
“You do, don’t you?”
“I don’t know. Uh, the chart shows 32 in the obese range.” I’d hoped citing fact would get me off the hook.
“So I’m fat,” he responded, head bowed.
When we met eighteen years ago, we were lean, in shape. Oh, and young! He had a 29” waist and I wore a size 4. He liked to jog, I enjoyed hiking. We also indulged in lots of Mexican food and sweet desserts.
We had kids. We faced a thyroid tumor, depression, and job losses. We exercised (and slept) less, and ate more unhealthy foods. Then, we found out we weren’t immune to the legendary metabolism freeze that happens as you age. He expanded to a size 38, and I nudged up a few sizes too. (I’ll tell you my age, but not my clothing size.)
I felt terrible and needed to fix it. “I could stand to lose about fifteen pounds,” I said. “I read a blog about this person who ran a mile each day. It was inspiring.”
He looked up at me. “We could do that.”
I exhaled, relieved that kindness and honesty shook hands and made nice.
The next day, with the kids at school, we ran. He timed it, because that’s how he is. I didn’t want to know the time, because that’s how I am.
The kids got home from school and my older son said, “Dad says you want to go running.”
A little miffed hubby sold me out, I replied, “We already ran before you got home.”
“I want to run with you!”
Oh, no. Never. What that means is my cross country-running son wants to play trainer and show off while I suck asphalt. Or put another way: make me feel like I’m in junior high PE again.
There are those who steamroller feelings in the name of honesty. I will never be one of them. This ordeal has taught me that a lie (or omission) isn’t always necessary to spare the discomfort of the truth. In fact, kindness and honesty can live in harmony, and we can be better off for it.
However, if my over-eager son offers to kill train me again, I have no problem saying a firm, “No way!” If he’s hurt, I’ll offer him a hug or a Band-Aid.