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The importance of unpleasant truths

In India many believe in the principle "Satyam bruyat, priyam bruyat, na bruyat satyam apriyam, priyam ca nanrutam bruyat esha dharmah sanatanah".  It can be translated as "Speak the truth.  Speak pleasantly.  Do not speak unpleasant truths.  Even though pleasant, don't lie".  However, I do not agree with this principle.  I will explain.

In the movie Harikrishnans (a Malayalam movie), Juhi Chawla feeds Mohanlal and Mammootty (heroine feed the two heroes) food with too much chilly powder and salt. Believing this principle they didn't say anything and continued eating that food. But, it had a negative effect on her. She got extremely offended that they didn't take the freedom to tell her the truth. I would have felt the same. I like it when people tell me unpleasant truths (apriya sathyam). I have often wondered why.  I believe the following interaction from the movie Prestige gives us some insight:

Alfred Borden: Everything's going to be all right because I love you very much.
Sarah: Say it again.
Alfred Borden: I love you.
Sarah: Not today.
Alfred Borden: What do you mean?
Sarah: Well some days it's not true. Maybe today you're more in love with magic. I like being able to tell the difference, it makes the days it is true to mean something.

It is interesting to note that in the movie there are two twins who act as the same individual, Alfred Bowden. This is unknown to everybody including their wife Sarah. The fact is one of them loves Sarah while the other one doesn't. And, somehow she is able to sense it. Wish I had such skills.

Anyway, what I wanted to say is that people often lie and we know it too. Testing them the way Juhi Chawla did is not a practical solution. So, we use some other techniques. Everybody will have their own favourites. For some, it might be their intuition, like Sarah. For me, I think it is unpleasant truths. I already mentioned that I don't have the ability to guess whether someone is telling the truth or not. At the same time, I do not believe that there are people who will agree with everything I say. Even if the existed, they would be extremely boring, as they have nothing new to offer to me. Thus, if a person always tells things which pleases me, I start distrusting him/her. I feel that he is not being honest enough with me. This way, I take the unpleasant truths as a "proof of the truth" of the pleasant things they tell me. As Sarah says, it adds meaning to the pleasant things they tell me. It makes it much more valuable. Of course, this is not a foolproof system. Some people, if they realise this, might misuse it. But, it might not be that easy, as I generally expect reasons for every criticism. And it is these reasoned criticisms that I value.

Therefore, my logic goes as follows.  I prefer people telling me the truth irrespective of whether it is hurtful or not.  There is, however, no way I can know what another person wants.  So, I follow the principle "do unto others what you would have them do to you" unless they explicitly state otherwise.


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