Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Responsibilities of Friendship – Honesty in the Balance

By Mary Gottschalk
Are you honest with your friends?
It is all well and good to say that friends are honest with each other, but what does that mean in practice? Do we have an obligation to share our opinions just because we have them?
Where is the boundary between honesty and cruelty, between honesty and interference, between honesty and acceptance of friends as they are?  How do you find the balance between being honest and being kind?  How do you find the line at which honesty—or the lack of thereof—makes a charade of the friendship without actually crossing the line?
Where does the boundary lie when people you care about make life style decisions you don’t agree with? It can be painful to watch a friend making the wrong job choice, or spending money unwisely, or picking an unsuitable romantic partner. But what do you accomplish when you offer an opinion that a friend does not want to hear … when you make a recommendation that a friend is emotionally or psychologically unable or unwilling to act upon? And who’s to say that your opinion is correct? What seems self-evident from your perspective may be inappropriate and/or impossible in a friend’s situation.
Where does the boundary lie when a friend is being betrayed, perhaps by a spouse or a business partner? Do you have an obligation to pass on that information? Put differently, do you have a right to pass on that information? What if your friend already knows and is trying to avoid dealing with the issue or trying to deal with it in a non-public way?  Confronting a friend with the fact of a betrayal may exacerbate the situation rather than improve it.
For myself, I lean towards telling my friends what I think and appreciate having friends who are forthright in their dealings with me. But I am much more cautious than I used to be. The fact that I have an opinion doesn’t mean that I have to share it.
How about you?  Where do you draw the line? 

Mary has made a career out of changing careers.  After finishing her MBA, she spent nearly thirty years in the financial markets, working as an economist, a banker and a financial consultant to major corporations.  She has worked in New York, New Zealand, Australia, Central America, Europe, and amazingly, Des Moines, Iowa. 
Along the way, she dropped out several times.  In the mid-1980’s, Mary and her husband Tom embarked on the multi-year sailing voyage that is the subject of her memoir, Sailing Down the Moonbeam.  Twice, she left finance to provide financial and strategic planning services to the nonprofit community, first in New York and later in Des Moines.
In her latest incarnation, she defines herself as a writer.  She is working on her first novel (A Fitting Place), freelances, and lectures on the subject of personal risk-taking.
 Links to books and social media sites

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