Is honesty the best policy?2, June, 2015, by Seema Bhatnagar
Do you believe - it is ok to be dishonest sometimes if situation demands? Well, it could be a very tricky question to answer. Its answer depends on what kind of life you have lived, how strongly you have lived and how particular you are about personal values.
Whatever one may say, it is a fact that honesty is a virtue which we all admire in others and want to practice in personal life, but certain life compulsions and helplessness make us bend towards dishonesty.
Looking deeply, honesty is the core of individual. Only because of this quality our world is working, doesn’t matter, whether it is a job, relationship or career, it is a pillar of strength for human bonding and relationships.
Why it is difficult to practise?Though each one of us adore this quality and expect others to be so, but when it comes to self, some compulsion or the other would not let us to practise it in life.
In the world of materialism where the main focus is to accumulate to maximum possible extent beyond what is enough or sufficient for an individual, it becomes quite natural to think to take advantage of a situation, to utilise opportunity to the best possible extent doesn’t matter even if it demands certain compromises on personal values. In such a scenario the thought of honesty doesn’t hold much ground, rather it sounds ridiculous and fragile.
Right from the childhood we are encouraged to act smart and clever doesn’t matter even it needs certain manipulations of facts and personal values.
Constant fear of losing the available opportunity, sensing the discomfort in immediate future, fear of losing relationships or fear of losing social image prevents us from walking on the path of honesty.
If we look closely to our life, it is very difficult to be honest with self forget to be so with others. Touching on different aspects of life to understand dishonesty - in relationships, not being happy or seeking happiness outside, in job - not liking it but somehow continuing, in choice of career - it is what looks good and appealing to others. Basically, lacking courage to be honest about admitting personal discomfort and continuing with suboptimal choices in life.
In almost every area of life dishonesty seeps in for one reason or another. Interestingly, we find all good reasons for our dishonest behaviour.
Why it takes lot of courage to be honest? It is simply because, being honest means to face discomfort and associated consequences of unimaginable magnitude. But people who muster courage to face consequences become fearless and develop ability to venture into difficult situations and challenges in life.
A true honesty.
It sounds strange to read the phrase “true honesty”, wondering, if there can be a false honesty. Yes, there could be a diluted form of honesty, probably experienced by each one of us. On giving a critical analysis, there could be broadly two categories of honesty which we generally experience in daily life.
First is, if somebody is asking you something or about some situation and you know it very well but giving a manipulated statement or picture about it, this is a highly diluted form of honesty.
Second is, you are directly or indirectly related to a situation and you know that truth very well. Doesn’t matter if you are asked about it or not, you come forward and say the truth. This is pure honesty.
In both the scenarios, individual takes a decision based on how much discomfort or loss one will experience, it might be of relationships or monetary or social image. The more the risk of losing, the better is honesty level.
It is a very high level and broad categorization of honesty and this is not all. In general, it is the first scenario (described above) which most of us practise quite frequently in our life, while the second one is an ideal one, very few reach there, it is a category of whistle blower, who is mostly under a threat to be killed.
History is a proof of those great souls who remained honest without fearing the loss of their life. Mahatma Gandhi was one of such exemplary leaders who always uphold his vows even when he was facing tough times of life.
Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. ~ Plato
Above scenarios are about our interactions with the world, how about being dishonest or honest with self. Let’s say, about admitting and accepting personal weaknesses where nobody is there to punish you or you are not losing much in terms of money or relationship. It is in fact more piercing because you become your own judge and constantly trying to evade certain truths about personal habits/weaknesses/flaws.
Not knowing self and going against self is first of all is a biggest dishonesty and it adds unimaginable amount of constant suffering to self because every act of dishonesty makes you think of how to avoid situations which might reveal your truth or true personality. Constantly thinking of avoiding people and situations out of fear is a loss of energy which could otherwise be invested and utilized for learning or enhancing self.
Shouldn’t we aspire to reach the second category which epitomizes the honesty? It is definitely difficult but don’t we all like purity in whatever we consume, be it gold, diamond, any brand of cloth or product than why not demand it in our personal values.
Indian school of thought.
Indian scriptures are all about enhancing growth of an individual to a highest possible form of purity that is equivalent to Godly level. The purity means, the integrity and honesty in character. Out of five Yamas (five abstentions: how we relate to the external world.) as prescribed by Patanjali (the father of Yoga), Satya (truthfulness), emphasize upon the quality of being honest and truthful in life. It is one of the five basic pillars of character.
Another perspective of looking at dishonesty according to Indian school of thought is Law of Karma. According to which, whatever you give out to world comes back to you. It is equivalent to Newton’s third law, which says, every action has equal and opposite reaction.
In context of honesty, if you acted dishonest with somebody in some situation, it is for sure that somebody would act dishonest with you in some situation of life, or you would incur loss because of somebody’s dishonesty. Your action acts as a cause and will surely bring its effect. There is definitely no escape from this law of universe.
According to Hindu philosophy, if you are doing any act of dishonesty you will have to pay back for this act, not necessarily in this birth, it could be any of the next many births, but for sure you cannot escape from it. So, our every birth is like paying back what we did earlier in this birth or previous births. It might sound illogical or non-sensical to many but this is deep spiritual truth.
My personal experience.
"Honesty is the best policy." ~ Benjamin Franklin
In my personal life, I boldly admit that I had been dishonest on several occasions, doesn't matter how small, big, significant or insignificant was the reason behind it. Sometimes it was something very threatening, in the sense, that it would have very severe outcome or consequences on my career or social image, sometimes it was petty and trivial. With the fear of losing my face and lacking courage to face others I didn't open my mouth. Fundamentally, it was only the fear of losing social image that deterred me from confessing my mistakes or misdeeds.
Let me quote an example here, when I appeared for an interview for my job, I was not bold and honest enough to admit the fact that I am not so good at particular programming language though I cleared three rounds of interviews and was well tested for my suitability for the job.
After my selection, I had to wear the mask of being a good programmer all the time but internally I had to face the pain of not meeting expectations of my seniors. This in itself was the suffering of not being honest. With every mistake I committed while working I used to think that my truth will be revealed.
Though this suffering gave me lot of learning but it was no lesser than sitting on burning pyre all the time. Slowly I learnt the programming language to my expectations and could do my job reasonably fine but I could never become an expert. I continued doing my job reasonably well but somewhere I could not feel that inner peace and satisfaction of being happy about my status. This is so because I always felt that I am not being honest and not doing more than what is expected from me.
All those years, I was always under the pain of suffering that I was not honest enough to admit my weaknesses. The big fat ego covering my insecurity was a reason which prevented me from becoming honest in my pursuits. Today, I feel - had I been honest in all those acts, my life would have been different altogether, better or worse, can’t say. The interesting piece of wisdom and learning is - living with dishonesty has taught me the value of being honest in life. This learning and wisdom has come with enormous intangible cost.
There are many more such acts of my dishonesty which kept on piercing me deeply. All those acts were involving me and were never about harming others.
On the other side, there were people who acted dishonest with me, few of my close friendships and office politics gave me lot of hard blows, but with time I have overcome all those and emerged as a stronger person. Thanks to all those who acted dishonest and taught me how important it is to remain honest in life.
People who are honest in their conduct and personal values, I find them very attractive and inspirational. I strongly feel connected and attracted to them doesn’t matter man or woman, because I find them very reliable and strong.
Though I myself do not belong to a category of an absolutely honest individual but I really aspire to be one, I am practising my best to reach there, I have tried in many ways in my daily life, where I sensed the imminent risk of being honest but still I persisted when I had all the excuses to be dishonest in that particular moment. What I observed is - once I voiced my honesty about the situation, the other individual felt comfortable on finding me as harmless, and sometimes with an expression of pity towards me extended help and cooperation.
In some situations where I expressed my honesty, it was hard for others to believe that any person can be so honest, out of awe and wonder they expressed their appreciation, eventually most of the situations ended up turning in my favour.
With constant practice of honesty in my life, I have become emotionally stronger and fearless about the future. My strong belief that divine has some plan for me supplies me the required courage to be honest in any given hard or challenging situation. Even if sometimes some doubt creeps in, it happens very momentarily and I simply leave things to divine and focus more on my efforts in a given situation.
On giving a deeper thought, whatever damage we expect from being honest, it is not as detrimental as we think; it is only our fear of facing a temporary discomfort out of which we resort to dishonesty.
Should one be honest?
"No legacy is so rich as honesty." ~ William Shakespeare
Acting smart or clever might fetch you brownie points in short term but it is highly toxic for your personal growth. I am not saying that you should dig out all the acts of your past where you acted dishonest and make public announcement, rather it is high time to realize that being dishonest adds a burden to your mind and drain your energy and you lose your trust in self. A single act of dishonesty saps your energy and engages you continuously in figuring out ways to avoid uncomfortable situation in future.
"I am afraid we must make the world honest before we can honestly say to our children that honesty is the best policy." ~ George Bernard Shaw
If you are parent or leaders or holding a responsible position, you are creating lot of impact on others with your every single act and statement. Especially, kids are very sensitive towards truthfulness, with every act of dishonesty you are simply polluting their psyche and asking them to become dishonest which means you are encouraging them to live a suboptimal life.
There are several acts of daily life which are so subtle that they go unnoticed and we don’t even count them as dishonest. For example, feigning illness to avoid going to office, avoiding somebody, giving excuses of not responding over call or email, blaming others for mistake committed by you, taking advantage of somebody’s weakness, doing personal work in office, using office resources for personal use etc. These acts might not have damaging outcomes but the underlying fact is - these support and encourage your habit of dishonesty.
The beauty of dishonesty is, you always know that you are acting dishonest in particular situation but certain compulsions and helplessness prevent you from being open and vocal about it.
Give a critical look to your life and see how you can act honest even if it means losing something. You might sense some discomfort and loss but it is nothing and insignificant in comparison to living honestly and boldly.
"Honesty prospers in every condition of life." ~ Friedrich Schiller
To live powerfully in life is only about being honest and bold admissions. People say that it is Ok being dishonest in this dishonest world – well, everybody himself/herself is the best judge of the situation but eventually the results of being dishonest reaches you and then you have no escape from it.
So, as long you are fine bearing the consequences of being dishonest you may enjoy being dishonest. Choosing the path of honesty gives you courage and emotional strength, makes you real strong individual. Once you admit your weaknesses/flaws you feel very light and empty from inside and your power to absorb knowledge and learning get enhanced manifold.
A person who is honest with self is a more joyful individual because there is nothing to hide from others and no need to waste energy in avoiding traps of truth.
If you are on the path of personal growth and development, being honest with self is the first step you must make because it fills you with vigour, enthusiasm and love for life.
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