Kindness & Honesty: Mutually Exclusive or Interconnected Ideas?

Contrary to popular belief, kindness and honesty are not mutually exclusive concepts. But many of us feel tension within ourselves about whether we should prioritize kindness or honesty when we communicate with others. We fear that our honesty could hurt others or cause us to be rejected.

But when we solely prioritize kindness to others, we can feel as though we are being inauthentic.

Focusing on kindness alone can often lead us to hurt ourselves or others in the long run. So is kindness without honesty really kind? For example, we may let on that we care for someone more than we do because we believe it is the kind thing to do. But in the long run, when it becomes clear that we do not have strong feelings for someone, they are more hurt than they would have been if we had been honest in the first place. I think Meg-John Barker puts it best. They say “real kindness requires us to be honest with both ourselves and others, even if that is painful and hard.”

Also, many of us have been hurt under the guise of someone “just being honest.” Does this mean that we can use honesty as a way to say what we please without regard for the consequences?

Being honest without being kind only pushes people away from us because honesty without kindness can be cruel. Honesty alone can cause us to not see the whole person in front of us.

We often feel like we have to choose between the two, but we don’t have to. We can choose to practice compassionate honesty with the people in our lives. We don’t have to hide or compromise ourselves, and we do not have to be unkind about it. When we combine honesty and kindness, we can develop a more empathetic understanding of others and have healthier relationships because we would have a more authentic and deeper connection.  

Written by: Elizabeth Kraich