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Essays by Karen Anderson: Do No Harm

Illustration by Kacie Brown

A good friend tells me that he’s just been fired from his job and that it was his manager’s fault. I think how he was recently fired from another job and it was that manager’s fault, too. And I start to say something about his pattern of problems at work. But I see the pain in his face and remember the three questions I’ve heard lately, attributed to Socrates:

Is it true?

Is it necessary?

Is it kind?

And, I rethink my comment about my friend’s job problems: Is it true? Yes. Is it necessary? No. Is it kind? No. That’s my answer, even before I say a word.

Many years ago, I was with a group of friends when a woman said to me, in front of everyone, “Karen, you don’t need to feel so insecure.” Was it true? Yes. Was it necessary? No. Was it kind? No.

And I might add, Was it helpful?” No, it only made me defensive. And, as you can tell, I never forgot her comment—not its accuracy, but its hurtfulness.

So I tell my friend that he’ll surely find another job and another manager. And I think maybe “Do no harm” should be the rule, not just for doctors, but for all of us.

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.