Honesty isn’t such a simple thing. It’s one of those ideas that everyone has a general sense of, but probably hasn’t put a lot of thought into. What does it mean, or how does it affect everyone’s daily life? Being honest, for many reasons, is self-evidently of utmost importance in living a balanced life.
Tell the truth.
What does that mean under normal circumstances? On the surface, it seems pretty simple. Just tell the truth. Don’t lie. When someone asks if you know something, and you don’t, just say so. I know we’re taught to always know, and, if you don’t just make it seem as though you do. Even though that’s our standard, we don’t have to let it rule our thinking.
This also has to do with how we respond to questions. I know that, for a long time, when someone asked me a question, my initial reaction was to act knowledgeable about whatever the question was, just hoping to not get called out on it. The fear in that situation is the idea that whoever is involved with the interchange might be unimpressed or even put off by a lack of knowledge. So, in this case, deciding to be honest had more to do with coming to terms with my own insecurities about what I don’t know and how that might affect my image in other peoples’ eyes than just being honest.
If it were just about being honest, everyone would be telling nothing but the truth. To truly be honest, one must live with what that means in each situation. One must accord one’s self with that ideal, so that truth is the goal of each interaction. That isn’t so easy in more dramatic situations. Deciding what is “right” or “true” can be very difficult, especially when there are multiple perspectives pulling in opposite directions. Which should one choose? When the choice is either to go out with friends or to stay home and watch a sibling, which one is best? To decide that, one must be honest. Maybe, honestly, the sibling is old enough to be on his own? Maybe, honestly, whoever is making the decision knows the friends are planning something that could get them into a lot of trouble.
Maybe the friends just want to go see a movie, and that’s it.
This takes a lot of mental fortitude in each situation, which doesn’t come overnight. Being honest is a process that takes a lot of patience and practice and an openness to new and contrary ideas. That’s not an easy task. It’s not comfortable, nor is it convenient. It is important, though, because once we know how to be fully honest, we can then know where it is we need to improve; then we can really be ready to learn something. Then we can help others on their journey to an honest life.
This doesn’t mean to confuse fact with honesty. In this sense, honesty is getting at the heart of an issue. Telling someone a fact that might be true isn’t the same as honesty. It should come with a sense of the other, as well as a sense of what’s productive in the situation. Maybe someone just needs to talk and so you listen. Maybe someone needs advice, so you advice. Maybe someone needs to be distanced from. Taking the situation into account, in my view, is part of being honest.
If we’ve come this far with so much dishonesty in the world, imagine what we could do with less dishonesty and more honesty.