One time a colleague at a previous workplace didn’t show up at work on a particular day. My friend, who also doubled as my colleague and I noticed their absence and would have called this individual to know if all was well. But we had a rethink, because, you see, this colleague of ours was a little notorious for staying away from work for flimsy reasons. And so, we decided not to make that call because we simply chalked their absence up to the usual truancy. Anyway, this colleague showed up the next day (or was it the day after now?) and claimed they had been ill and as such could not have shown up at work, according to another colleague.
Before we came face-to-face with this person, we knew they would be a tad angry with us because we had failed to check up on them during their absence. My friend turned to me and the conversation went:
Friend: Lolade, I learnt Ayo (fictitious name) said he was ill o, and that’s why he wasn’t at work
Me: Oh, really?
Friend: Yes, and I know he’ll be upset with us for not putting a call through to find out why he was absent.
Me: Yes, we will just have to apologise and let him know we thought he didn’t show up for no serious reason like he tends to do sometimes
Friend: *Gawks at me* Lolade, how can we say that sort of thing?
Me: Because that was what we thought now. Abi, was that not what we concluded must have happened?
Friend: *Still looks unsure about my response
Me: Well, that’s exactly what I am going to offer as an explanation because that’s really what happened. And I’ll apologise for the wrong assumption
Friend: Okay o
And that was exactly what my response was when this ex-colleague accused me of not checking on them. I just didn’t see a reason to tell a lie about my thoughts on their absence. My friend had suggested we opted for something more politically correct like “The lines didn’t go through” or “We had meant to call, but forgot somehow” but, I thought it wasn’t worth it.
In fact, it would have been an easy lie to detect. Better to come clean, I had maintained. The most important thing is to truly apologise and make a mental note not to jump to conclusions next time.
As I have advanced in age, one of the changes I have observed in myself is my unwillingness to sugarcoat things or tell an unnecessary lie. I consider it too exhausting and would rather not say anything than utter words that do not come from a truthful place.
It was one reason I was happy when I was done with the senior secondary School exams that marked the end of my secondary school days. As I exited the main gates of the school on that fateful June evening, the first thought that came to mind was “No more beating, thank God”. I was super glad that no matter what I did or said, I could only be rebuked verbally. There were no guarantees of this while in school. You could get flogged by a teacher either as a result of your own misdemeanour or if you were unlucky and got caught in a collective group offence; which happened quite often back then.
And with the realization that I had escaped corporal punishment for the rest of my life came a new found boldness to say whatever I meant without fear. Since that time many years ago, my natural inclination has always been to speak the truth, because, well, no one is going to flog me for it.
Now, I must admit that the decision to mostly say what I feel has landed me in trouble sometimes. There have been times when I would have saved myself plenty of stress by telling a fib and ended up kicking myself for it. However, largely, I still believe as one grows older, they should be more fearless about saying things as they are. They should be found in the place of honesty and sincerity at all times.
Recently, former president, Olusegun Obasanjo wrote a letter to the current president, Muhammadu Buhari. The crux of his open letter was a piece of advice for the president not to seek re-election. It was an irony because the same Obasanjo was rumoured to have wanted a third term while he was in office. To many, his criticism of the present administration is hypocritical.But that’s not the point of this piece.
That Obasanjo was bold enough to tell the president what many in the political class feel, but are too cowardly to express says a lot about his character. Someone might ask where the place of diplomacy is in all of these, and I’ll say that it’s true that there are certain issues that are better handled with tact, but more often than not, as we grow older, we should find ourselves being unequivocal when commenting on issues that require taking a firm stance.
If children and teenagers are economical with the truth because they are afraid of getting punished or shouted down, should a full-blown adult also nurse the same fears?
One of my pet-peeves is coming across people who are in the position to set things straight, yet feel the need to be coy about every issue. Middle-aged men and women who can never call a spade by its name because they have to pander to every whim and caprice.
Age tends to confer qualities such as wisdom and insight which comes from having many life experiences. In a society like ours, where age is still a factor when it comes to respect, the values of honesty and sincerity should be the hallmark of every adult.