Honesty: free of deceit and untruthfulness; sincere
Being honest is almost always the only proper route in life. On rare occasions will I find it acceptable to be less than honest. It’s innate, at least in me, and I think in most people, that the honest response or answer is the first one (s)he thinks of; however, the degree to which they debate following through on the honesty is what differs among us.
I’m sure I was taught as a child that “honesty is the best policy,” whether it was in school or at home. I don’t exactly remember this conversation other than hearing about it in classic 1950s and 1960s TV shows and the occasional movie where someone is trying to coax a child to tell the truth. But even if I weren’t actually taught this message, it seems like the right thing to do. If not, everything would be more like a treacherous game than a way of life. Let’s all play some Game of Thrones today! Russian Roulette is the new mantra. NOT!
I can recall a few moments when I wasn’t 100% honest; told you in my 365 intro I intend to tell both the good and the bad!
- I know I was obsessed with Legos and took a few home with me from a friend’s house one time. I claimed I didn’t know what happened to them, but I clearly remember thinking “these aren’t mine” when they “fell” into my Lego box. I’m not exactly sure why, other than Legos brought me great pleasure and offered an escape from other things in my life (no, nothing bad… I was just a very shy kid).
- I’ve told someone (on a few occasions) I’d been dating that I wasn’t attracted to someone else when I knew I was. And yes, in the past, I did cross a line many years ago that I should not have crossed. I was bad. I admit it. But I learned from it and I eventually confessed. You can choose to dislike it or me, and I don’t blame you. But we all live in a glass house at some point, and we’ve all thrown the stones when we knew we shouldn’t.
- I’ve made up plans when I didn’t feel like going out with someone else. I truly just needed down time… and didn’t want to offend the person or have them think I didn’t like them. They would be persistent if I just said I didn’t “want” to go out.
OK, so none of those are all that bad (e.g. murder, marital affair, bullying). But I had an opportunity to tell the truth, and I chose not to. Sometimes, I’m afraid of hurting another person’s feelings. Sometimes it would lead to a far worse situation to be honest, and it’s easier to just tell the white lie to end the immediate issue. Are these acceptable situations?
For the most part, I think they are. If the truth will hurt someone’s feelings, but the lie will avoid a problem – and it is short-term and not impactful – it may be the best course of action. Why tell a friend their new haircut looks bad when it will be fine in a few days? Perhaps if they are going on a date or a job interview, don’t let them suffer a longer-term impact. Bite the bullet, tell them it’s awful and deal with the short-term impacts.
If you’re thinking about cheating, hmm… that’s a tough one. Do you hide it until you know you want to, or do you risk saying “I thought about Person X” to the person you are dating and have them prematurely leave you? I choose not to answer that question because I think the answer lies in the strength of your relationship; you should be working towards a solidarity that can withstand admitting you find someone else attractive. It’s when you choose to act on it that the line has been crossed. Subjectivity in this level of honesty in the important message.
But on the good side, honesty is really the only way to exist. It’s an example of how to level-set the playing field. When you are dishonest, everything that happens afterwards will immediately be suspect. Take the example of someone who lies on their resume or in an interview to get a job. Perhaps the less qualified candidate will get the job due to this lie. But eventually, it’s a high probability (s)he will be found out and either lose their job or be reprimanded. That addresses the situation for the liar, but what about the person impacted by that lie? (S)he didn’t get the job, which may have been a career changer for the future. Where does that leave him or her? Note: I’m not getting into fate and sometimes it’s necessary to lose one thing to set you on the path to what you are really destined for… that’s another topic! Yikes… these challenges might be harder than I thought. Morality exists everywhere!
And so, when I look at honesty, it’s a scale heavily waited to 99% of the time, i.e. it is required. Dishonesty should only be reserved for those moments when you’ve weighed the options and the impacts of that decision are not harmful to anyone, or are less harmful than the alternative.
That said, many readers are probably thinking “he’s so wrong… you should never lie… what do we tell our children…” You tell them the truth. You provide examples, you teach them about cause and effect, you explain the impacts with either decision. Not when they are 2 or 3 or 4, but when they are mature enough to understand.
That doubly said, I RESPECT those who ALWAYS tell the truth, no matter the impact. Perhaps they are too blunt. Perhaps they are inconsiderate. Perhaps they are rude. But they are honest and you will always know what to expect from them. And being consistent is one of those really extremely important things to be. And that will be tomorrow’s characteristic!