When I began my day of self-observation, I had the notion that it would play out similarly to that of Jim Carrey’s day in the movie Liar Liar. Where Fletcher Reede (Jim Carrey), a prominent defense lawyer, is unable to tell a lie for the entire day after his son’s birthday wish is granted. As one can imagine, Reede finds himself in many awkward predicaments throughout the day, and I couldn’t help but think that by staying true to the assignment, the same would happen to me. Unlike Jim Carrey’s character, I’m thankfully not a compulsive liar or a lawyer; otherwise my day might not have gone so smoothly. My preconceived idea that I would be forced to tell the truth and as a result hurt peoples’ feelings never came true, and I never felt the need to lie.
Although being truthful posed no inconvenience, saying only useful things became a slight annoyance. Unlike the texts between my friends and I, where it is easier to communicate via text rather than talking face-to face, I found that talking with my boyfriend Michael via text is much more difficult than if we were to talk face-to-face. As a result, many of our conversations revolve around the usual small talk of “what’s up?” and “how was your day?” before we get into an actual topic to discuss. So when I was unable to use my go-to phrases of communication, I struggled to find something to talk about. It wasn’t until I told him about my assignment, and my being able to only say kind, useful and truthful things, that we were finally able to strike up a conversation. His reaction consisted of jokingly asking a plethora of questions which I had to answer truthfully.
This reaction varied from the reaction of my friend Anthony, when I told him. He instead told me all about how he once had an assignment similar to mine in which he was unable to use any form of technology other than a car, even going so far as to not allow the use of light switches. He then described how difficult and unpleasant this assignment was. Since I was sworn to kindness, I was unable to agree with him that I too thought the assignment would be unpleasant, so instead I remained silent and we soon moved on to more positive topics. I began to think how often complaints arise in conversations. If I had been able to speak my mind at how miserable his project sounded, we most likely would have gone on about all the things we disliked about it (especially the lack of indoor lighting since I’m afraid of the dark). Instead, by refusing to acknowledge the negatives, we had a much more pleasant conversation.
I must admit, that I did have one slip-up while trying to maintain being both truthful and useful as well as kind. While in our literature class, I was discussing with Natalya, the poems that were assigned the night before, and amidst this discussion I admitted that I strongly disliked Walt Whitman’s poem “I Sing the Body Electric.” I then went on to exclaim that I felt the poem to be nothing more than a listing of body parts, and that I failed to see how this work was considered poetry. While my comments were both useful to the question at hand and truthful to my feelings, they were anything but kind to Whitman. Fast forward a half hour into our class period, and it was time to discuss the poem I had so brutally dismissed. After my fellow peers picked it apart in the search for its true meaning, I began to see the beauty in the poem. I found that the poem struck me on a deep personal level, for I too share Whitman’s fascination with the human body and its magnificence. For the rest of class I pondered what I had just discovered: that my words were neither kind nor truthful. Like a bully does to their helpless victim, I had failed to see the poem for what it truly was, and in that failure, denied the work a just critique. It made me think of what other beauties I may have missed, and whether I had deemed them ugly too, without a second thought.
This day of self-reflection brought to my attention just how important words can be. By speaking strictly useful things, it eliminates the awkward small talk which adds nothing to a conversation. This day also made me realize just how often complaints pop up in our conversations, and how difficult it is to avoid falling into the vicious cycle of negativity. Most importantly I came to the realization that hurtful words are never able to describe something in their proper light and that they deny something the justice that it deserves, for there’s always something better lying below the surface.