Col Jessop, I Can Handle the Truth

If you sense a tad of anger in today’s piece, then you are probably right. I was stood up with a very poor excuse. I was supposed to be meeting a friend in London for a mid-morning coffee and catch-up and early this morning it was cancelled.

With my lifestyle, doing anything first thing in the morning causes larger changes my schedule than for most people. I can’t go to bed as late as I want (I need my 8 hours sleep) and with diabetes I even have to change my eating habits from the previous lunchtime to make sure I have the right amount of carbs, drugs, and early morning food, otherwise I am taking orange flavoured dextrose at odd times, and they taste awful with coffee.

A change in plan in the early morning annoys me. But, what annoyed me more was the need to offer a palpably untrue excuse.

Do you ever make up an excuse to someone and wondered why you did it? Was it for your benefit so you didn’t look weak or disorganised, or was it one of those white lies because you thought I couldn’t take the truth?  Maybe you feared my reaction if you were honest? Don’t shoot the messenger etc.

There are always good reasons to cancel meeting-up, but we seem inclined to invent excuses to make letting me down seem reasonable or at least palatable.

I am all for spinning a yarn and embellishing a story. That is what I do every day when I am writing a novel, but that is best left for conversations in the pub, or across a meal table. A story is for entertainment. When it comes to important matters and after a Damascus Road experience maybe 8 years ago, I am now a firm believer in the truth.

I like being honest although when I start to answer your morning greeting of ‘how are you?’ with a list of ailments, cured or otherwise, I know it can be boring for the recipient. Finally, I have learnt to differentiate between those who really want to know (my family and Paula, my diabetic nurse at the hospital) and the casual greeting.

The problem is that we are not used to honesty and expect excuses. We expect to be let down gently. We expect empathy to our moods and needs but that is different from being lied to. I know Sasha initially found my honesty difficult, but now she understands me and knows what to expect.

Just as important as not making excuses to other people, is being honest with yourself. That has probably had the greater benefit. If I don’t want to do something I have learnt to say no, and not feeling guilty. Saying that something just doesn’t appeal, I would rather see someone else, be somewhere else, or just can’t be bothered is better for everyone. Real friends understand and that is what matters.

Maybe worse is excusing other people’s failings or poor performance. It happens all the time. You probably know what I mean but as one commentator has said, I have to pay close attention to what people say, how they say it, what they do, and the assumptions they make. It’s not that complicated really; keep your word, respect other people’s time, show a touch of humility, and most of all don’t lie to me. The sooner you stop making excuses for people, the sooner you can surround yourself with people of good character. And seriously, why would you waste your time and energy being around anyone else?

The excuse used today was meant to make feel good. It was clearly a last-minute thought, meant to be sufficiently sensible while also serious enough so that it made me seem unreasonable to debate it. It was a bit like the parent’s excuse to get a kid out of school: his granny has died. Ask any teacher how many times they have heard that one. It’s only when you get to Granny number three that you can quarrel.

Making excuses seems to come so easily to everyone and it annoys me. Do you remember this encounter from the 1992 film, A Few Good Men? Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson were the actors. Powerful and unforgettable.

Col. Jessup: You want answers?

Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to.

Col. Jessep: You want answers?

Kaffee: I want the truth!

Col. Jessup: You can’t handle the truth!

Sorry, Col, Jessop. I want, and I can handle the truth.