Being frank is good

Being frank is good

Oasis

Oasis

In Shakespeare’s play King Lear, an ageing ruler renounces his responsibilities and announces the partition of his kingdom. When he enquires how much his three daughters love him, the elder two profess unbounded affection. King Lear allots generous portions to them. 

“What can you say to draw a third more opulent than your sisters” he asks his favourite child, Cordelia. “Nothing,” she states flatly. She adds that while she owes her father filial devotion, she will reserve half her love for her future husband. “So young and so untender?” remarks King Lear. Cordelia replies, “So young, my lord, and true.” 

Although she risks losing her inheritance, Cordelia cannot bring herself to utter honeyed, hollow words. King Lear, who prefers sycophancy to sincerity, disowns his youngest daughter. He pays a heavy price for this error of judgment and learns, too late, that Cordelia alone is loving and loyal.

We may not display such a lack of discernment or be fooled by flattery, but many of us find adulation agreeable. We believe that we deserve acclaim and appreciation and this is not necessarily an unreasonable expectation.

Without underestimating ourselves, however, we should be open to the honest appraisal of well-wishers.

Not long ago, a few of my colleagues told me that I had put on weight since they had seen me a few months earlier. I was aware of that fact but still found their observations unpalatable. After all, I am certainly not the only one who likes to hear “You look the same as you did when I last met you,” or “You haven’t changed a bit since I first knew you.” 

We must remember that while compliments are not to be lightly dismissed (indeed, they are essential to our happiness), there is much to be gained from a candid comment. I am grateful now for the outspoken opinions expressed at school, which have made me mindful of my health and fitness. Let us regard frankness as a friend.

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