Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario

Like for a TBH

The status on my nephew’s Facebook page said “Like for a TBH.”

I was not familiar with the acronym, so I sent him a private message,


“To Be Honest”, he replied.

“Ah” I posted, and left it at that. I read along as the evening unfolded and got the idea it was a way of inviting conversation, maybe a plea for a pep talk. But I also noticed that one or two of his “friends” took the opportunity to say what was on their mind, and it wasn’t flattering to my nephew.



The wormhole opened. I was back in my grade 6 classroom baring my soul and stating my “to be honest” claims against my classmates.

A version of the “TBH” exercise was making the rounds during the 1960’s. The practice was a form of “therapy”. Not necessarily one that the medical or social work fields sanctioned, but one that you read about in the newspapers. One that “cults” practised. Adults in our neighbourhood tut-tutted about the young teen two streets over who was “rescued” from a commune. The housemates had forced her to sit naked while they, encircling her, recited a litany of her flaws. The idea was that you were somehow made stronger by being rendered vulnerable and defenseless.

Our Sunday School teacher had us try a sanitized version. She demonstrated:

“Billy, I really like how you help your little brother climb the stairs. That’s nice.”


“Susan, you have a lovely singing voice. I hope you can sing in the choir again, next week.”

All sweet-love-dove.

She asked us to try it and we mimicked her examples. Everyone had a little ego boost that day.

So there I was that school day, fresh from my Sunday School love-fest, when the grade 6 teacher decides to hold one of these TBH events himself.

Mr. Van der Wolfenschraderheimermiensterdick (made-up name, can you tell?) was a young man, very tall, dark hair with a white forelock and immaculately groomed. He had no trouble with discipline. His teaching methods were… shall we say “unorthodox”?


He had a Cruella de Vil thing going on – in looks if not temperament

In our class, two pupils excelled at their schoolwork. Teacher would pit one against the other and alienated both of them from the rest of the class. Anita was one of the students.

I was the other.

We liked each other well enough, which was a good thing. When the other twelve-year-olds began to gang up on either one of us, we had each other’s backs.

Mr. Van der Duncemeyersthereandbach introduced the rules of To Be Honest. However, he incorporated a twist. Besides telling the other what we liked about them, to be honest, we needed to tell them what we did not like.

I volunteered. I saw this as my opportunity to defend myself and to chastise the class for being mean to me and Anita.

[This is me, folks. Damn the torpedoes – no guts, no glory.]

It backfired, of course.

“Oh yeah?” came one indignant response, “Well you are a stuck up brown-nose”

“Yeah, go suck eggs”

Or some such remarks.

Mr. Van der Hammerschmiddlepoopendump said not a word. Nor did Anita. I looked to her for support. She avoided my gaze.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

With one exception, the situation then was identical to the one playing out on my nephew’s Facebook page. As I watched, I could see the ranks form. His allies rose to his defense. The virtual bombs flew wildly. It was all so much entertainment! LOL’s here and FML’s there. It was a game!

What is it, do you suppose, that makes us crave acceptance and praise to the point where we expose our self to stupid cruelty? To be honest? This game the kids play is treacherous. From my vantage point this side of the wormhole, that is.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Photo Credit Cruella De Vil

Categories: Personal Growth

Tags: ,

26 replies

  1. Eek! I have not heard of that. It’s really tough being a kid (and when I think about it, being an adult too 😉 )


  2. Oh hear hear, Maggie; jolly well said and I quite agree. I have noticed, during the course of my life, that the expression, ‘to be honest’, is almost invariably followed by the negative, the hurtful and the cruel – and that the speaker justifies a blatant attack by that little word ‘honesty’. People almost never say, ‘To be honest, I think you are wonderful,’ and this, to me, rather gives the game away. Honesty and blunt nastiness are poles apart, in my book. The other one that does the rounds, and my head in, from time to time is the manipulative little coda, ‘No offence!’ Very clever, very cruel, very difficult to respond to. Example: ‘That dress looks awful on you…no offence!’
    Excellent post, Maggie.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Some things never change, they just morph. Children can be so cruel, and you wonder where they get this behavior. Then you look around at the behavior of the so-called adults you know and wonder no more. Scratch the surface and those cruel children are still there. If only “to be honest” could be a prelude for simple kindness rather than an excuse for cruelty. It’s oh so much more challenging for some to find the positives in life.


  4. Hi Amanda – totally agree – cruel children grow up to be adults with a cruel experience. It takes an almost superhuman force to see the plenty, the abundance, and the good.


  5. I’m telling you the truth! To be honest! Honestly! All make me suspicious!
    Great post 🙂 🙂


  6. LOVE this! You took me right back to third grade. Also being one of the top two, I had the alienation thing going throughout my entire school career. It was only third grade, though, when my teacher really got in on the action. And then in seventh grade, the other half of my dynamic duo turned her back on me, too. But this was what really got me: “What is it, do you suppose, that makes us crave acceptance and praise to the point where we expose our self to stupid cruelty?”

    My son has been acting out in class, trying to be class clown. I see so much of myself in that behavior – wanting so badly for the other kids to like me that I would subject myself to ridicule and self-destructive consequences. Until we are able to find regular fulfillment greater than that we receive from our peers, though, we will continue exposing ourselves to damning judgement just for that one little kernel of appreciation.


    • Wow, thank you for your thoughtful comment. That must be painful, amusing, poignant to watch your son.

      As much as I would like to say that I’ve found my fulfillment and that I don’t need any outside acknowledgement/confirmation, well, that ain’t gonna happen. I need the likes, the little gold stars (the craving for gold stars started with Mr. Van der W). So, in a way, WordPress is right up my alley.


      A lifelong, a multiple lives-long trip for this soul, I’m afraid, before it learns to discernment and self acknowledgment.


      • Oh, don’t I know! Watching my stats skyrocket after being Freshly Pressed felt just like being crowned prom queen! (I assume, at least, since I obviously have no idea what being prom queen feels like). But we all do wish better for our kids, don’t we? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Yikes – I’ve never heard of this TBH thing. I don’t think my skin is thick enough to play a game like that and shame, shame, shame on an adult – in a position of authority in the classroom – to instigate it!!!
    … and as you expressed above, my need for acceptance hasn’t changed much either since childhood – but then again, aren’t we still just children at heart? 🙂


    • Yeah. It reappeared in grade 7 or 8 in health class. I knew better that time to sit back and keep my mouth shut.

      Regarding the teacher: It wasn’t until I wrote the piece and I struggled with naming names that it occurred to me that maybe some bitterness lingers. Hence the creative surnames.


  8. Ooh, you ARE an experienced TBH player:
    “I need the likes, the little gold stars…So, in a way, WordPress is right up my alley.”

    BURN–way to cut those who still have low Follows and 0 hit days! (We won’t say who.) But, if anyone owes Followers to you : ) they really can’t fuss. (Hope you know I’m laughing here.)

    Had never heard of this game, either. Evil thing. Sorry you went through that. Thought your teacher names were funny, but way too nice for that man-who-shall-now-remain-forever-FAR-from-nameless.

    My school system was supportive of its smarties–no teasing except in envy, no pressure. No one made direct fun of the slower kids either, except, rarely, cracks when they weren’t around, about the “shop” kids (boys who took auto shop, woodworking shop, etc.). Even when one boy brought in a giant (5′) clumsily-made chicken-wire and paper mache eye tooth for his Art project, the light teasing was in good fun, and everybody said “Good job, H.”, because everybody knew that all he wanted was to grow up to become a dentist like his dad.

    The only meanness I remember, which was bad, had to do boys deciding how pretty or ugly, full- or flat-breasted, each of the girls was, and whether she “put out” or not.


    • 😀
      Curious. As you’ve read, you are not the first to say that you have not heard of TBH. “Like for a TBH” is all over Facebook – or it was – my niece and nephew are college age now and seemed to have outgrown that little bit of fun and games. Huh. When I saw it on Facebook I assumed it was global. Wouldn’t it be weird if it were a regional thing? Perhaps a direct descendant of the hippy-dippy 60’s here in our part of the planet?
      My grade-six episode was revealing on several counts. And, as usual, only in decades long hindsight. There was fallout, but I was author of any repercussions as much as my classmates. I could have pleaded with them for understanding or compassion, but hell, I did not have that vocabulary! All I knew were things like “behave yourself!”

      It sounds, though, that the administration of your school had the vocabulary and the wherewithal to support a tolerant atmosphere. Except of course for the mean-spirited boys. Nasty little sh*ts.

      Speaking of counting – new record in the overnight spam catch – 14! Used to be only one or two.


      • Re: School administrators’ role:
        I think it was more the time, and the place, and that we lived in an economically-privileged area. But:
        In 4th grade, there WAS one terrible teasing/bullying incident. A fat boy, C., was being ragged on mercilessly–started out of nowhere, The principal stopped it entirely in one day. I’m so glad you reminded me of this. Have a draft post on bullying, and will add to it the whole small yet wonderful story.

        Re: spam–send some my way. I’ll pretend my hit count is higher! (Seriously, your higher count may be indicative of your higher global hits, and not by WP stats, which some sites I’ve tripped over indicate don’t tell the entire story for overseas.)


  9. Yeah, this was a little painful. Not only have I never heard of TBH, but I have no idea what FML is. What world do I Iive in, right? LOL!


    • LOL – well, my dear, I think in this case ignorance is bliss. I wouldn’t know most of the acronyms or cyber-speak if it weren’t for my niece and nephew and time spent on Facebook. You can look up FML online in the Urban dictionary. Suffice to say, ML means “my life” and the F is the common, ugly curse.


  10. TBH I really enjoyed reading your post!! As a teacher and aunty the things children say often either crack me up or blow my mind lol

    Thank you for posting
    BH x


  11. Well, tbh I avoided all such situations by just not going to school. How I’m even semi literate amazes me. I think I would have liked your Sunday school teacher, kind words were few and far between in my schooldays. Mr Van Der Dick, Oh, I had a bellyful of that type. Even when I was doing my degree. Ow! I think you may have touched a little nerve here, Maggie.


  12. Oops, sorry about that, Lesley! For better or worse, I am glad that you caught the Van Der Dick conceit. 😀


Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s