I like potlucks. I like food…good food. My wife is an excellent cook so it just works out! Back to my point: potlucks. Potlucks are amazing opportunities to try out new and different dishes from diverse persuasions. Most exciting is the opportunity to discover an amazing cook. But this great opportunity has its dangers. The danger of potlucks is summed up in one phenomenon: the mercy dish. The mercy dish is that dish that everyone attempts to consume because they don’t want to hurt whoever brought it along. It’s that dish that you put on your plate, but never really eat. It’s that dish you smell more than you taste. It’s that dish you poke more than you scoop. And for some reason, it’s that dish everyone remembers long after the potluck is gone.
The danger of potlucks is the tendency to be dishonest. The compulsion to smile and swallow when every cell of your body wants to spit out the food. The obligation to say, ‘Great’ when you want to scream, ‘What is this?!?’. The mercy dish forces us to pretend because we value feelings over taste. The force of pity derails the course of truth.
The real danger is that our dishonesty causes a repetition of the mercy dish. And what do you say this time? Do you tell the truth or do you keep the lie up? Do you say the truth that reveals you have been lying all this while?
Which would you prefer: the delicate truth now or a delayed lie? Next time you are faced with that mercy dish, that co-worker no one is really honest with, that situation every one feels awkward about, you will have two options: smile and swallow or find a sensitive way to say the truth. The option you go with will determine if the mercy dish will be repeated or not.