Those of you who read me regularly know that I write quite often about honesty. But I do so because I do not believe that the world suffers so much from a political, or social-justice problem, as it does from a problem with honesty. Oh, there are many political and social-justice problems, but they are always rooted in dishonest practices, by governments, religions, dictators, and others in positions of power. It is the same problem, amplified, that many people have in their own private lives.
One of the main causes of grief and disharmony in our world is that we, as a broad collection of human beings, invariably prefer to deal with symptoms of a problem rather than with the actual situation itself. We prefer to try and repair the damage done by our actions, or inaction, than to prevent the damage from occurring in the first place. Or we just ignore it, hoping it will go away. We end up approaching a situation dishonestly, and then just living with it, or trying to fix it later. We do not require honesty of ourselves, of our associates, or of our leaders. We overlook it in others, thus more easily enabling us to overlook it in ourselves. But it makes for a stressful, disingenuous, and complicated world. Everything ends up under the table rather than on top of the table where it belongs.
What if we were to require honesty in our relationships and associations? Would we end up having to withdraw from relationships altogether when they did not meet the criteria for honesty? Would we be pushed out of associations for not meeting the criteria of relativism? I think some of both. But is that reason enough to participate in a continuous, and less than genuine, manner of interacting with the world around us?
But what the hell does honesty really mean anyway? Does it mean to live in a ‘tell-all’ world, where we have no secrets of our own? Does it mean to answer every question whether the answer is anybody’s business or not? Does it mean to confess to every shortcoming, failure, or indiscretion? Does it mean to challenge every standard of interaction and behavior? Does it mean to supplant wisdom and common sense with irresponsible nobility?
Of course not.
Honest is a way of being. Honesty is a dimension where one lives when one rids oneself of the fear of consequence, or of the uncaring brutality of convenience. The fear of consequence, for most individuals, is what encourages deceit (dishonesty), it is what enables it, whether it is deceit by commission, or deceit by omission. The fear of consequence is what demands one to practice self-protection, rather than honesty, whatever the cost. Self-protection breeds deceit like a chameleon changes colors for its own survival. On the other hand, The Uncaring Brutality of Convenience gives no regard to the feelings, or wellbeing, of another. It tends to be embraced by the egomaniacal, the power hungry, and the greedy. In any event, both dynamics are rooted in the practice of dishonesty.
The consequences we fear as individuals do not necessarily have to be a form of punishment. A consequence can simply be the embarrassment of having someone know about an act or behavior that contradicts a pre-existing image of us. It can be someone thinking less of us for knowing what they now know about us. But, living with guilt is a predictable consequence of trying to avoid other consequences through the practice of dishonesty.
Dishonesty separates. It separates husbands and wives. It separates parents and children. It separates friends. It separates employers from employees, people from churches, politicians from the people, and countries from each other. Dishonesty separates a person from himself. When looked at pragmatically, dishonesty never has the payoff one would hope for. That in its self ought to be motivation enough to discontinue the practice.
“Honesty is the best policy.” That’s what people used to say.
You never hear people say that anymore.