Should we tell our friends the truth?
Place yourself in the following situation: A sensitive middle-aged friend is prone to illness and often complains of being tired and chilled. He looks old for his age, is underweight, and his skin tone is grey and pinched. After having a conversation you become aware his minor health issues are due to a poor diet. He doesn’t eat regular meals, he hasn’t eaten fruit or vegetables for the best part of 20 years, and he lives off junk food. Should you offer advise?
On the face of it, it sounds simple. Of course we should say something, certainly if we consider ourselves a true friend. However, having given this situation some thought, I’ve decided it is not so easy to reach a decision.
First, let’s look at the reasons for voicing our opinion. Not only are you going to improve the immediate health of your friend, you may also be preventing a more serious condition from developing in the future. It’s positives all around, isn’t it?
Maybe not. Given your friend is the sensitive type, and doesn’t take criticism easily, you risk causing a detrimental crack in your relationship, if in fact it survives your bluntness. All of a sudden, you are labelled as patronising and arrogant, and he doesn’t want a bar of you. He tells you, ‘you know nothing. I have a good diet. I’m just not blessed with good genes.’ Your relationship is never the same again.
All of a sudden you wish you could take it back. With regrets, you tell yourself it’s not as if he was in a life or death situation. It really isn’t your business how he lives his life. Your duty as a friend is to provide him with happy moments and be supportive of the decisions he makes. That’s all. You shouldn’t be trying to change him. No one is perfect.
Would you like it if some told you you were fat or smoked too much? I know I wouldn’t. The mistakes I make in life are my own are they not?
Obviously, whether you decide to say anything or not comes down to many factors, the most important probably being the closeness of your relationship. Since the majority of our friendships are those of convenience – i.e. we see each other only in certain situations such as on quiz night – then we are unlikely to be close enough to say anything. We have too much to lose . . . don’t we?