While we were all probably brought up with the important value of telling the truth being drummed into our heads, how often do we actually risk the consequences of being really honest? The forbidden taboo of telling the truth came to my attention recently from my fifteen-year-old son Marcelo.
I was talking with my wife (confidant and best friend) Teresa about a problem I was having at the office. My boss who I shall call Rick is a married man who is having an affair with one of our other employees. My standard mode of operation is to ignore this type of behavior at work, even if I disagree with it.
The primary challenge came when my boss asked me to lie to his wife about where he was and what he was doing on an out of town trip to cover up his indiscreet affair. I told my boss that I didn’t feel comfortable with this, as my moto is “Honesty is the best policy”. He also knows that I really like his wife and kids, as I have known them all for about ten years. I also said that I’m a terrible liar and that his wife would surely detect the lie if I told one.
To my amazement, my boss threatened me with not getting an upcoming promotion that I honestly felt I deserved! I was shocked as I thought of Rick as a friend who had displayed a fairly good work ethic in the past. I was very upset about the whole thing and my wife and I were at a loss as to what to do about it.
As I turned to get a drink, I saw my son in the dining room and the moment I saw the look of compassion on his face, I knew he had heard the whole conversation. As I sat down beside him we began having a very frank and open discussion about why it can be so hard to tell the truth. We discussed how all too often when we do our best to let others know about their unacceptable behavior at work, or amongst our friends, the result is often punishment or revenge of some negative fashion.
I know an honest whistle-blower at a company that was fired and now faces an ugly lawsuit by having had the guts to tell the truth. My wife Teresa was voted out of a political volunteer board position for what she considered being tactfully honest at a meeting about someone’s inappropriate behavior. We all felt our hearts sink as we fully realized that even when we feel our intentions are truly honorable, the possibility always exists for the honest person being punished, and the injustice being ignored. The forbidden taboo of telling the truth is real as it often has harsh consequences.
For the next two days I did my best to avoid my boss and the tension was clear between us. That weekend my son yelled from our home office, “Dad come here and check this out, I found something really cool!” Marcelo said he had searched the internet for “telling the truth” as he thought he might write a paper for his sociology class based on our discussion, entitled The Forbidden Taboo of Telling the Truth. What he found amazed us all!
A website called Anonymous Expressions.com expresses their dedication to telling the truth in sticky situations by mailing “Honesty Letters and Humorous Awards anonymously to others! This website clearly understands the challenges and consequences of honesty and being a target for the revenge of others, warranted or not! They have awards like ““Master of Con Artistry, Passionate Pack-Rat, Mindless Moocher, Coercive Co-worker & Drama Queen Awards” to wake people up, (just to name a few!) They also have a lot of kind or honoring awards. They protect your identity as all correspondence is mailed directly from their service in Colorado. Most importantly, this educationally based site “offers a variety of popular and unique exercises for evolving your emotional expression and well-being in healthy and effective ways.”
So I dove into their outline and followed their suggestions for writing an honesty letter from my own truth and decided to send it anonymously through their service to my boss.
1. The troubling situation as we see it is . . .that your extra-marital affair or sexual addiction may be sadly destroying your life. Many people in the company are talking and we are concerned that you may lose your job. It is clear that we who care about you are also suffering. So we send this to you as a plea for change with many prayers for everyone affected, including your wife and kids.
2. How we feel about this is . . . very sad and hopeless as none of us can affect you like you can affect yourself. Some say the hurt we feel is usually as deep as the concern is and reminds us of how much we care about you.
3. This must be true, as we are all caring very deeply while worrying about you and your family. While this may be a selfish part of yourself you must face, the patience of our company has been tapped so if you don’t choose to find a way to create change, we choose to detach from your nightmare and not participate. We so sincerely want to have the real you back into our lives and want to be able to greet your wife with our usual honesty and grace.
4. What we would like to see is . . .you admitting your problem to those who care and apologizing for the heartache this is causing us or at minimum, we want you to stop this blatant affair and keep it out of the office. Please then ask for the help and support you need and find a way to get into treatment, classes and/or good therapy. The company will pay for therapy, as you know.
5. What we want for you is . . . a life of health, love, success and joy. Find a new hobby, maybe a new job, be the highlight of social gatherings and soak in the fun and love of friends and family who adore you! We want for you, all the good your life has to offer you and the very best of everything that we wish for ourselves.
We want you to hear our thoughts and take them to heart and let your conscience find a way. Company policy and company employees do not approve of such behavior or the consequences it brings to everyone. We also don’t want to have to tell your wife or see you lose your job with us. The choice is yours. We are watching.
Wow! I was really feeling relieved, especially as it is written as if coming from everyone in the company. I was happy to pay Anonymous Expression a mere $13. for their outline and insights and to print and mail my letter. I was able to let go of the situation for awhile, feeling that I had done the right thing by being honest and keeping my identity a secret. I thanked my son and we read my letter together.
I was pleasantly surprised to see what happened in about 5 days. My boss called several of us into his office, closed the door and apologized for his indiscreet behavior with _____. He asked us to forgive his asking us to be dishonest to his wife. He said he suspected this affair was like a mid-life crisis thing and that he now realized how close he could be to losing his wife or his job as a result of it. He thanked us for our understanding and smiled at me as he said we were all great employees that truly deserve the promotions we receive as a result of our dedicated work and understanding.
I am happy to say that the tensions between us melted away, I got my promotion within three months after my annual evaluation and I am always happy to see my boss’ wife, who I really like. So I must highly recommend the truth telling website that taught us all how to be true to our values, tell the truth and do so privately. Thank you www.anonymousexpressions.com and thanks to my son Marcelo for his astute internet skills. We trust this website will be helpful to all who know the value of telling the truth and who are realistic about the consequences of doing so. We hope you will find that telling the truth has never been more important and yet is now easily done anonymously.
We hope you will check out the awards on their site www.AnonymousExpressions.com as they are really creative, diverse and fun! As they say, Telling the Truth has never been more private, rewarding and safe!”