In the past couple of weeks, I have gotten some, well, let’s call them less than kind commentary on this blog.

Someone took a run through back posts and corrected (or suggested corrections that were not entirely accurate) grammar and usage issues.

Then,someone called me “stupid.” Now, I had suggested I might be, but don’t most people know that a person does not suggest such to actually be called such?

Truly, I do welcome all commentary on this blog, and I did my best to respond kindly and with an open eye to their critique.

But these comments bring up an interesting question: when does honesty become malice?

This is an important question for any writer (or potential blog commenter). If the intent behind honesty is to help the person see more clearly or adjust course to avoid something harmful, if it is meant to help not to hurt, then honesty is lovely. But when the intent is to harm, or when the impact of words isn’t considered, then I think we’re treading into malice.

Nonfiction writers (and those fiction writers who use real-life experiences to drive their work) have to think about this question carefully. Will revealing the frustrations I have about my grandparents’ idea of gender roles be beneficial, and will those benefits outweigh the hurt it causes them? Will writing about the cruelty or negligence or ex-boyfriends do more than just sting them and give me a little catharsis? Does laying out a family’s history bring light to dark places and, thus, usher in healing, or is it just sensationalism?

We all have to set our boundaries on these things as we see fit. I cannot offer anyone else their limits, except to say this. If you don’t feel comfortable having your “honest” words read by every person on the planet, then you shouldn’t publish them. Because without fail, almost everyone of those people you thought wouldn’t read it, probably will, and unless you feel secure in your reasons (or numbed to the backlash that might result – I don’t advocate this one), then you should be very certain before you put out those words in the universe.

So is calling me stupid honest? Perhaps. Is there malice there? I can’t judge. I just know it hurt and for no good reason that I can see. I would have held off on that one myself.

What boundaries do you set for your honesty? Are there stories you won’t tell? How do you set the line between simple honesty and malice?

Note – Many thanks to Jansen of The Driving Farce for spurring me on with this question, even though he also suggested I blog about Corn Nuts. 🙂