Posted on Friday, November 6, 2009
in Intellectual, Relational
Honesty is a culturally threatening virtue. So threatening that few people make it a constant choice. It’s counter-cultural to choose to be honest.
People joked about cheating on their taxes – “it’s okay unless you get caught.” People make “little white lies.” They cover up the truth “to protect the other person.”
“Everyone lies” and “everyone lies some of the time” are routinely used to justify the choice to be dishonest. That’s if the choice to be dishonest is ever challenged.
“You love evil more than good and lies more than truth”, says the songwriter.
Dishonesty is not a new idea, it’s a time (dis)honored tradition: “Stop your love of telling lies that you swear are the truth” the Israelites had to be told.
Why do people feel compelled to tell their friends that they like their ugly shirt? That “their hair is so cute”? That they enjoy a song that they’ve never heard? Or, watched a movie they’ve never seen?
I believe that it’s all boils down to a fear of rejection. Too often we are held in bondage by fear; that if we are honest that people will reject us.
I have found that people like and trust me more since I chose to always be honest than when I tried to say what I thought that they wanted me to say.
I began this by saying that honesty saved a life. In twenty years of watching people watch other people self-destruct I can tell hundreds of tragic stories.
I’d rather not.
Instead I’d like to repeat a story of honesty saving someone’s life.
Care Enough To Confront
I loved the movie The Mask of Zorro. While Zorro’s mask hid his identity his character was evident to everyone. He was the same person wherever he went. Usually he was not a swashbuckling defender of the oppressed, but he routinely cared about the poor and disadvantaged.
In one particular scene old Zorro – Don Diego de la Vega — confronted the upstart new Zorro – Alejandro Murrieta.
The overconfident Alejandro Murrieta bragged, “I would have killed him.” His mentor Don Diego de la Vega said, “No, not today. He is trained to kill. You seem trained to drink.”
de la Vega, caring about his friend told him the truth about his character.
And then he continued, “Oh, yes, my friend, you would have fought very bravely, and died very quickly. Who then would avenge your brother?”
Someday Murrieta’s brother’s killer might be brought to justice, but without an accurate assessment of his abilities and shortcomings he would never have seen that day.
de la Vega saved his life.
He could have held his tongue, but de la Vega would not have been a loyal friend. “Doing what is right protects the honest person…” [Proverbs 13:6, CEV]
It may be hard to say the truth. We might “hurt someone’s feelings.” I like to ask, “do you want me to tell you the truth?” It gives the other person time to assess how much they really want my opinion. Almost everyone says yes, even though they already know they might not like the answer.
Then I follow up the truth with an equally true truth that they would like better.
Friend with ugly shirt: “Do you like my shirt.”
- Lie or Half-truth: “Yes” — while not disclosing that I would only like it if it was a rag to clean my car’s engine.
- Hurtful truth: “No”. While it’s accurate it speaks no blessing into the person’s life.
- Helpful truth: “No, not really. You have other shirts I like much better on you. I prefer when you wear _____.”
Honesty like all good decisions takes practice.
Character is built — good character and bad — step-by-step, decision by decision.
Your wise and courageous honest decisions today will make tomorrow’s easier. If you choose to be honest in one relationship it will be easier to believe that you can be honest in other more tumultuous relationships.
Every time we choose to communicate honestly we bless the other person with respect and we bless ourselves with self-respect.
Wanna have friends? Be a friend. Tell the truth. You might save the next life!