Bravery & Honesty

I recently wrote and submitted an essay to a popular wedding-and-marriage themed website. It was the sort of post that gets praised as “honest” and “brave” and I was almost certain it would get published.

After a week of suspense, it did. I even received a kind note that the editorial staff “all really loved what you had to say.” Naturally, I was tickled pink. I was thinking to myself, “If what I have to say helps even one person, I will be so happy.”

On the appointed day the post was posted, I (naturally!) eagerly read the comments, and promptly realized why honesty is so often labeled as “brave.”

It was, surprisingly, something I had never thought about before. My approach to life is very much: let’s all be open with each other, without taking offense, so that we can all learn together. There are certainly people who think there are better ways of interacting and I have, in certain situations, given in to that advice… probably for the best. But in general I haven’t noticed any overtly negative reactions that would make me change my view. My honesty has almost never called for bravery; and it had never called for bravery after the courage to confess was mustered.

I wrote the post because I had felt alone, realized belatedly that I was not, and hoped to spare others the same shamed loneliness. And then all the comments up until lunchtime were about how others had exactly the opposite experience I did. They were perfectly happy. They had never had this problem. Though I have never seen a truly trollish comment on this site, one person did go so far as to say that perhaps her experience was different because her parents had provided a good example. (I didn’t mention my parents in the post, and as it happens, they were also a good example. But thanks for the implication, sweetie.)

I spent my lunch hour near tears.

In the afternoon, however, the tone changed. Several people thanked me for the post and said it was exactly what they needed to read.

So I stopped reading comments. I’m sure the post has acquired more, and perhaps the not-so-kind commenter, who was gently rebuked by others, has even backtracked. A part of me is curious. The bigger part of me knows that I don’t need to know. Whatever the sum of the reactions, what I said helped one person – more than one person – and that is enough.

It was a small experience but an important one. I can now be brave when I am honest. But it changes nothing else. The world needs more honesty. And perhaps more bravery too.