Frankness may be defined as the good quality of disposition that in keeping with time, place, person and occasion openheartedly expresses its thoughts and motives appropriately. True frankness has two ingredients: (1) honesty of thought, motive, word and act, and (2) openness in speech and act.
The opposite of frankness is supersecretiveness. Some people are too secretive, which frequently results in their practice of falsehoods, deceptions, cunning and crookedness. Sometimes it prompts people to withhold information from those who are entitled to it.
Enemies of Frankness
Frankness has its enemies, both personal and impersonal. Its impersonal enemies are (1) dishonesty of intention, its chief impersonal enemy. This makes one uncandid; hence should be fought against and overcome as an enemy of this and every other grace; (2) the cunning of an overdone secretiveness makes one conceal his real intentions and cover up his acts under a false veil and a deceitful appearance; (3) excessive secretiveness as the mother of dishonesty and cunning in action is an enemy of plainness of speech; (4) flattery for personal advantage seeks an advantage for itself by suppressing unpleasant truths that should be uttered and by expressing exaggerations of praise which should be modified; and (5) the spirit of men-pleasing as against God-pleasing repeatedly checks the utterance of what true frankness requires to be said, or expresses exaggerated praise, since frankness may not be in line with the men-pleaser’s purposes. The personal enemies of frankness are the devil, the world and the flesh, which have been elaborated on before when discussing other graces.
Functions of Frankness
The first function of frankness is to speak clearly the needed truth pertinent to the situation at hand. We need to tell God things that we should tell Him, such as confessing our faults, our needs, our desires of mercy and grace to serve and honor Him, our plans and purposes to advance His cause, our gratitude and praise and our resignations to His will in untoward circumstances. We also need to tell our neighbors the needed truth, whether it is pleasant, unpleasant or neither of the two. Sometimes it is called upon to warn, to rebuke, to correct, to restrain; at other times to comfort the afflicted, to strengthen the faint, to revitalize zeal in the weary, to energize the weak and to encourage the discouraged and despondent. It is to enlighten the ignorant, to guide the erring, to rescue the superstitious, to save the sinning and to deliver the selfish and worldly.
The other function of frankness is to curb excessive secretiveness. If one is excessively secretive, hiding what he ought to reveal, letting dishonesty and cunning dominate him, openheartedness should be used as a brake to, and a curb on it and ultimately to destroy it.
Abuses of Frankness
But frankness can be, and often is abused, (a) by being overdone, by being allowed to go to an extreme. Some of these excesses of frankness should be pointed out to help to their setting aside: (1) a loveless telling of what should not be told, which does no good, and can often cause grief in the hearers; (2) tactlessness of speech, which often causes others to be needlessly offended; and (3) bluntness. Though there are some rare and suitable circumstances in which bluntness is in place, when the golden rule and utility forbid it and it is still indulged in, it is surely an abuse of frankness.
The other kind of its abuse is (b) underdoing frankness, such as: (1) non-use, its suppression when it should be exercised. Often this is due to timidity, partiality, an overweening respect or an unregulated love; (2) the use of ambiguous language, subterfuge, which can be used to deceive others; and (3) deceit, the worst form of underdoing frankness.
Its Repression and Destruction
Once frankness has been developed, it can be repressed and destroyed. Some of the ways this results are: (1) dishonesty of thought, intention and speech, which will cultivate its opposites and contrasts; (2) selfishness of intention; for whenever frankness runs counter to one’s selfish interests, it will fail to act; (3) a more or less holding back of needed frankness will make it inactive; (4) practicing cowardice; which will make one fear to offend, displease, lose or frustrate some design by telling the truth that requires to be told; and (5) uncalled-for bluntness, which is a gross and evil exaggeration of a true openheartedness.