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When do you step over the line and tell the truth?

Our family was having a conversation on telling the truth. My son-in-law, whose name is also Al, said emphatically, “Always. There is no question about it.”

“But what if it hurts? Maybe people can’t handle the truth? And maybe they don’t want your truth, and maybe they are asking for something else.”

Then our kids reminded us of an incident that happened in Virginia in their home during one of our family’s Thanksgivings. Some of our son-in-law’s relatives drove down from New York. Al and I flew in from Colorado. One of the family members knew I would be there and she wanted to have an art lesson. After dinner, she excitedly brought out everything she had painted, probably a total of seven pieces.

I looked at them; thoughts were going through my head. “Stick people. Oh they need work, this is bad. She has got to be kidding. I don’t know if I can teach her all that she needs to know in just one afternoon.”

She wasn’t kidding and I had my job cut out for me. I was still in the mindset that she wanted an art lesson. So, I mentally rolled up my sleeves and flexed my artistic muscles and began to teach her. “You need to do this because ... and when you do that, then this is what you need to do ...”

She resisted all my professional knowledge. She was not going to change anything and was totally offended. She liked her paintings the way they were. After three hours, she hadn’t done anything, just sat there staring at them. She folded up her supplies, cleaned up and put her art away.

It was a mental tug-of-war for me. “Doesn’t she want to learn? Just pick up the dang brush and paint. I can’t help her if she doesn’t listen to me. Doesn’t she want to know how I could help her improve on her art?”

No. She wanted affirmation and someone to be excited over what she had done. She did not want a lesson or truth; she just wanted to show off her work to another artist who could understand her great artistic aspirations.

Let’s just say; she came to the wrong person and, believe me, it was a long Thanksgiving afternoon. The New York family could hardly wait to leave and if the Colorado family could’ve left, they would have. I am glad she didn’t bring her paintings out before dinner; that would have been hard to swallow for all of us. I had great things to teach her, she had a lot to learn. But maybe it was me who had a lot to learn about forcing my knowledge on her. You think?

I was worn out and needed to rest; I excused myself and went to the bedroom. What just happened? If you are going to teach somebody, you need to have a student. It’s got to be someone who wants to learn what you know. She didn’t.

For me, I am a sponge for new information and new ways to increase my skills. I can’t get enough free advice and lessons. I take it all, sort through and learn from it. That was definitely a free lesson for me that day, she became the teacher and I became the student.

Did I learn from it? Will I in the future listen to the other person, be careful not to step over the line they draw and give them place for their artistic expression?

I hope so.

I’m not promising anything.

Interestingly enough, we spent several Thanksgivings with our children in Virginia after that incident. One thing we have all learned is this: we all call ahead and ask, “Who’s coming for dinner?”

Final brushstroke: Maybe truth is not what they are asking from you, just encouragement!

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Artist’s quote: “Learn to express rather than impress. Expressing evokes a ‘me too’ attitude while impressing evokes a ‘so what’ attitude.” — E. James Rohn.