I had a friend in college who was an actress. She was in a show at one point in our college career and she invited me and a bunch of my friends to go out and see the play.
We went out the next night to see the play, paid the $10 for our tickets, sat through the thing and waited for our friend to come out and greet us so that we could all go out afterwards.
She eventually came out and we greeted her with hugs and smiles and congratulatory remarks. But then came the question that everyone feared:
"So what did you think of the play?"
Truthfully, the play was garbage. The acting was terrible, including our friend's, and the music was horrendous. The only redeeming quality was the set design and you can't really remark on that. So, we were left stunned until everyone answered with the canned response that was expected:
"It was awesome; you were great!"
Something about that didn't sit right with me. During the play, we were all mocking the actors and music and one of our friends even fell asleep through most of it.
So, why didn't we feel comfortable telling her that we weren't big fans of the play? I'll tell you exactly why: Our generation doesn't value honesty.
I learn this the hard way almost daily because I'm a man who appreciates honesty and being self-aware. My friends and I now have a quite honest and open group. No topic is off-limits and no issue is too controversial.
We all realize that when we speak to each other, we are trying to help each other out, so we tell each other truthfully when we need to improve. But, it doesn't stop there; we actually offer methods on how to improve whatever thing is the object of criticism.
Not many people feel this same way. From my experience, it seems that whenever you try to be honest with people, you are often met with harsh reactions. When you tell people the truth, you are called a "duck" or a "jerk" or that you are being "mean."
I guess the saying, "the truth hurts" is true. People don't want to hear this anymore. As much as we like to think we have thick skin and can handle constructive criticism, we apparently can't.
The only way to be able to further and advance society is through honesty. All of these 12th place ribbons and participation trophies aren't productive.
We can't keep coddling people into thinking that everything they do is swell. In real life, you win some and you lose some and there is no shame in that.
Alternatively, there should be shame in not being honest with yourself and your peers. It is obviously not nice to go up to a stranger and say, "WOW, YOU SUCK!" However, it can only help you to be more self-aware. This is the only way to improve yourself.
Without being self-aware, you'll go through life thinking that you are great at everything because no one has told you that you are bad at anything.
We need people in our lives to tell us that we aren't perfect. Maybe that sounds cruel, but having someone tell you that you have room for improvement can be life-changing. It can motivate you to become a better version of yourself.
There is an old tale of how Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team. Many celebrities have stories about their acting coaches once telling them that they would never make it and in turn, the celebrities used this as motivation to become something great.
The next time someone tells you that you suck at something, thank him or her. People who criticize are only encouraging you to live up to your full potential by telling you what you need to hear, rather than what you want to hear.
Photo Courtesy: Paramount Pictures/Mean Girls