How Brutally Honest Is An Excuse To Be More Brutal Than Honest

You have heard the term brutally honest, right? Sometimes, I think we want to be more brutal than we want to be honest.

I recently had a fight with my husband. It started when I asked if he would be home in time for me to teach a fitness class that started at 5:30p. He said he would be home in time. The class was 15 mins away in light traffic. Earlier in the day I sent him a text reminding him that I had my class at 5:30p. He said he’d be home in time. At 4:42 he texted me saying he was on his way home. I was thrilled! It takes him 20 mins to get home. I’d have time to leave by 5:10 to make it to my class. At 5:10 he still wasn't home. 

I call him. He stopped at the store to pick up dinner. Highly irritated I asked, "Couldn't you have….” Annoyed, he cut me off with a sharp, “No I couldn’t have.”

Then there was silence. My husband never speaks harshly to me and I think it took us both by surprise. He immediately apologized.

He arrives home in at 5:20. I jump in the car and leave without any greeting. I hit traffic. As I peer at the sea of red tail lights in front of me, I get even angrier. I pick up my phone to call him to tell him exactly what I think about his actions. 

After all, it was his fault that I was going to be late. I wanted to call him and be brutally, I mean brutally honest with him about my feelings. But in a moments hesitation I realized that I was focused on being brutal not honest.

It is a key distinction. The phrase “brutally honest” tends to mean telling the truth with no regard to the listener’s feelings. It could also mean saying a hard truth knowing that it might hurt someone.

In the case with my husband, I wanted to be brutal. I wanted to say what was on my mind because I was mad. 

But I stopped. I didn’t make the call. I realized that my sole intent was to hurt him because his actions caused me hurt.

There are times when telling the truth will hurt but it is for the sake of the other person; like when confronting a loved one who is an addict. 

I only wanted to tell the “truth” because it would help displace my anger and frustration. Have you ever been tempted to do that? 

How you can be honest without being brutal:


I hesitated in the car just long enough to take my mind off of myself. 
Pausing gives you a moment to think about your next decision. 
Pausing allows you to disconnect yourself from the emotion of the moment. 
Pausing allows you to hear your conscience pleading. 
Pausing allows you to deescalate.

Assess whether your truth benefits you or receiver. Will one or both of you be better after you tell the truth?

Assess whether the truth you want to share is a preference or opinion. Not all truth is true. Some is just preference. 

Assess your motives. Why do you want to say this? Revenge? Aggression? Reconciliation? Restoration?

Assess your emotional exaggeration. Is your emotion making it a bigger deal than it is? Is your fear making you not say what needs to be said?

I was 10 minutes late for my fitness class. On the drive home, fresh off an endorphin high, I had time to take assessment of my thoughts. I saw what I could have done differently. I pinpointed what I wanted to say to my husband and most importantly, why. I no longer wanted to be brutal. I wanted to restore the rift that a communication malfunction caused in our relationship. I found the truth that was true and was able to share it with him. 

Pause for however long you need to assess whether you want to be honest or if you just want to be brutal. 

Have you ever been more brutal than honest? How did it go?

photo credit: arimoore via photopin cc

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