Advertising
Advertising

Can You Be Truly Honest?

Can You Be Truly Honest?

20090909-pinnochio

    Honesty, we say, is the best policy. And yet, it’s hardly news to anyone that in much of our lives, dishonesty rules. Salespeople lie about the benefits of one product over another, or about how useful those “extended service plans” really are. Partners lie about whether they liked dinner, or about what they did last night after work. Employees lie about the reason a project is overdue, or about how much money is in the register. Customer service people lie about what your warranty covers, or about how reliable their products are. And of course politicians lie about… the color of the sky and the existence of stones.

    We look down on dishonesty, but we do it all the time. We all know that “little white lies” are a kind of social lubricant, making everything run that much more smoothly. Why have a fight with your spouse over an outfit when it’s so much easier to just say “you look great, honey”? Why make a friend feel buyer’s remorse over their new car purchase by telling them all the terrible things you’ve read about it’s reliability?

    Advertising

    It’s hard to be completely honest. And yet, I wonder if we don’t let ourselves get so deep into the habit of saying things that are convenient rather than true that we lose sight of the truth in every area of our lives? And whether in losing the ability to be truthful for the sake of being truthful, we don’t lose a little bit of ourselves?

    What is honesty?

    On the surface, honesty is a fairly simple thing: the accurate representation of the way the world is, at least from your perspective. This is easy enough to comprehend when you’re stating a fact: “the sky is blue” is either true or false; honesty means saying the true thing. It’s slightly less clear when talking about opinions: “the babaganoush is tasty” is not true or false in any absolute sense – it is only true in relation to the taste of the person reporting on it. In this case, honesty means declaring your actual opinion – even though to another person, it might be wrong.

    But beyond the dictionary sense of what the word itself means, there’s the way that being honest acts in the world. Honesty isn’t just a word, it’s a characteristic of an act, behavior, or personality. It’s the difference, for example, between an “honest living” and a dishonest one – the criminal might not tell a single lie in the course of his or her day, but we wouldn’t necessarily call him or her “honest”.

    Advertising

    As a way of being and doing in the world, honesty is about trust – it’s about convincing others that we are to be trusted, and it’s about trusting others to be able to deal with the truth as we report it. Consider some of the situations that might lead us to be dishonest:

    • We want something from someone, and have nothing to offer in return.
    • We are afraid we’ll be punished for something.
    • We are afraid we’ll hurt someone’s feelings.
    • We don’t want someone to think badly of us.
    • We don’t want someone to do better than us.
    • We are protecting someone.
    • We are protecting ourselves.
    • We are protecting other people’s image of ourselves.
    • We are protecting our own image of ourselves.
    • We dislike someone.

    These are all purposely vague, and possibly overlapping depending on particular situations. The point isn’t to catalogue every possible reason for lying, but to demonstrate that most often, dishonesty is provoked by fear and danger.

    Thus, the salesperson lies because he is afraid of losing a sale. The significant other lies because she is afraid of hurting his or her partner’s feelings (and thus possibly losing the partner himself). The employee lies because she is afraid of getting fired, or of getting arrested. The spouse lies because he is afraid of breaking up his marriage. The student lies because she is afraid of failing a class. The criminal lies because he is afraid of being arrested, or of calling down revenge on himself. The doctor lies because she is afraid the patient will sue her (and she could possibly lose her license). The politician lies because he dislikes everyone – and because he is afraid of losing the next election.

    Advertising

    Think of all the times you might have been dishonest, even just a little, even just by telling a little white lie? What were you afraid of?

    How does it feel to live in fear? How does it feel to give in to it?

    Fear and Loathing on Life’s Path

    I said before that honesty is about trust. When we are dishonest with people, it is because we fear something. We fear that being honest will allow them to hurt us in some way, or we fear that being honest will hurt them in some way (and that, in turn, would hurt us – after all, we have no problem honestly listing the faults of people we dislike!).

    Advertising

    Ultimately, honesty makes us vulnerable, and dishonesty protects us. But at what cost? Every dishonesty is an admission that we don’t trust the person we’re lying to – we don’t trust them not to hurt us, and we don’t trust to trust us enough to know we don’t intend to hurt them. Either way, a lie says you think little of the person you’re lying to. It may not say it out loud – most of the time we lie because we are reasonably certain the other person will never find out the truth – but even if they don’t know, we know. Can you really think highly of a person you don’t trust?

    That’s harsh, I know, and I’m not necessarily advocating we give up every tiny white lie and less-than-full-disclosure; more, I’m suggesting that we think good and hard before allowing ourselves even the smallest dishonesty, lest it become a habit – not just a habit in the sense of the way we act, but a habit in the way we see other people, especially those close to us.

    This applies especially to the lies we tell ourselves. If dishonesty stems from a lack of trust, what does it mean when we lie to ourselves? And how much damage does it do us in the long run to not trust our own feelings, our own actions, our own being? Most of the time we know when we’re lying to ourselves – we see the truth behind our own actions and we excuse or justify that truth away.

    Can you be truly honest? Do you have what it takes to approach the world full of trust? Not stupidly or naively – you don’t have to tell your social security number to everyone who asks. although you don’t have to lie about why you won’t disclose it, either – just honestly. And if you could be totally honest, at least with the people who matter most in your life, what would change? Would it be better or worse? Finally, if you could be totally honest with your own self, would you be happier or sadder? I think these questions are worth examining – honestly.

    More by this author

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works) Building Relationships: 11 Rules for Self-Promotion How to Become an Expert (And Spot out One Nearby)

    Trending in Communication

    1 50 Ways To Show Her You Love Her 2 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do 3 Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason 4 9 Things to Remember When You Had a Bad Day 5 How to Use a 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on August 12, 2019

    13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

    13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

    Mentally strong people have healthy habits. They manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success in life.

    Take a look at these 13 things that mentally strong people don’t do so that you too can become mentally stronger.

    1. They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves

    Mentally strong people don’t sit around feeling sorry about their circumstances or how others have treated them. Instead, they take responsibility for their role in life and understand that life isn’t always easy or fair.

    2. They Don’t Give Away Their Power

    They don’t allow others to control them, and they don’t give someone else power over them. They don’t say things like, “My boss makes me feel bad,” because they understand that they are in control over their own emotions and they have a choice in how they respond.

    Advertising

    3. They Don’t Shy Away from Change

    Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid change. Instead, they welcome positive change and are willing to be flexible. They understand that change is inevitable and believe in their abilities to adapt.

    4. They Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control

    You won’t hear a mentally strong person complaining over lost luggage or traffic jams. Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives. They recognize that sometimes, the only thing they can control is their attitude.

    5. They Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone

    Mentally strong people recognize that they don’t need to please everyone all the time. They’re not afraid to say no or speak up when necessary. They strive to be kind and fair, but can handle other people being upset if they didn’t make them happy.

    6. They Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks

    They don’t take reckless or foolish risks, but don’t mind taking calculated risks. Mentally strong people spend time weighing the risks and benefits before making a big decision, and they’re fully informed of the potential downsides before they take action.

    Advertising

    7. They Don’t Dwell on the Past

    Mentally strong people don’t waste time dwelling on the past and wishing things could be different. They acknowledge their past and can say what they’ve learned from it.

    However, they don’t constantly relive bad experiences or fantasize about the glory days. Instead, they live for the present and plan for the future.

    8. They Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over

    Mentally strong people accept responsibility for their behavior and learn from their past mistakes. As a result, they don’t keep repeating those mistakes over and over. Instead, they move on and make better decisions in the future.

    9. They Don’t Resent Other People’s Success

    Mentally strong people can appreciate and celebrate other people’s success in life. They don’t grow jealous or feel cheated when others surpass them. Instead, they recognize that success comes with hard work, and they are willing to work hard for their own chance at success.

    Advertising

    10. They Don’t Give Up After the First Failure

    Mentally strong people don’t view failure as a reason to give up. Instead, they use failure as an opportunity to grow and improve. They are willing to keep trying until they get it right.

    11. They Don’t Fear Alone Time

    Mentally strong people can tolerate being alone and they don’t fear silence. They aren’t afraid to be alone with their thoughts and they can use downtime to be productive.

    They enjoy their own company and aren’t dependent on others for companionship and entertainment all the time but instead can be happy alone.

    12. They Don’t Feel the World Owes Them Anything

    Mentally strong people don’t feel entitled to things in life. They weren’t born with a mentality that others would take care of them or that the world must give them something. Instead, they look for opportunities based on their own merits.

    Advertising

    13. They Don’t Expect Immediate Results

    Whether they are working on improving their health or getting a new business off the ground, mentally strong people don’t expect immediate results. Instead, they apply their skills and time to the best of their ability and understand that real change takes time.

    More About Mental Strength

    Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

    Read Next