For those who want the Cliff Notes version of a blog post, the simple answer is YES. Honesty leads to trust, and trust leads to a society that can work together. The ability to work together gives us the opportunity to have conversations and actions that can solve problems.
Taking this seriously is a real challenge. Sometimes you have to go against the grain of society to be honest. But my goal is ALWAYS to be trustworthy. That can only happen if I am honest in all conversations and interactions.
This meant I told my children the truth about the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter bunny from their childhood. They experienced all the joys and gifts of these characters, but always knew that it was really mom and dad. I want you to always know that I will tell you the truth.
However, some go too far. There is a right way and a wrong way to be honest. Below are some tips on how to be honest in the right way.
How you can be honest all the time
1. Make sure that what you have is the truth.
It happens very often. There is a headline that we notice in a way. We get angry and share it across the board. You gather your friends and maybe even plan a protest. During a pause in the action, you actually read the article and find that you misunderstood the heading completely, or that the heading itself was misleading.
Before we proceed to the truth, you should be sure of your facts. This may surprise some of you, but not everything on the Internet, in books, or even on TV is true. Sometimes reporters just invent things to create an agenda. In other cases, they are misled.
Take the time to find out what the truth is before proceeding. When friends exchange messages, take the time to check the source before having an uncomfortable conversation with someone. Once you have confirmed the facts, keep pressing to reveal the truth.
2. Be creative.
In Corrie ten Boom’s book “The Hiding Place,” she tells the story when officials searched for Jews to hide in their home. She had already decided to lie to these men. This was easy to justify, as the lie would save hundreds of people from suffering and shame over the years.
However, her sister was determined to always tell the truth. One of the hiding places was through a trap door under the kitchen table. This was well carpeted. When the officers asked where they hid the Jews, the sister replied that they were under the table.
Corrie tells of her own shock at how easily her sister simply spat out the truth to the detriment of the family hiding there. When the officers looked under the table, they did not consider the possibility of a trap door and assumed that the sister was lying and playing games.
They went upset. The sister slept well and knew that she had told the truth and that the family was safe. It’s a great win-win situation.
It is NOT always easy to tell the truth. My mother-in-law was once in a potluck where a member of the Church had made a dessert she was particularly proud of and insisted that my mother-in-law tried.
With a bite, she knew something was wrong. The baker watched and waited for the verdict that this was the best dessert ever. My mother-in-law replied that she had never tried anything like this. It turned out that the baker accidentally used salt instead of sugar and a later version was really delightful.
To save embarrassment or shame, telling the truth in a creative way is acceptable. This costs more energy than a lie, but allows you to hold on to your integrity. Sometimes we can tell the truth and hope that providence will help prevent the effects from becoming too serious.
3. Truth with compassion.
Imagine going to the doctor and he tells you that you are going to die. Well, that could very well be the truth. But would you care how it was said? Did the doctor look happy when he shared the news? Did he choose his words carefully and express his compassion or sadness when he shared the news? what do you prefer?
Obviously, it would not be in our best interest if the doctor just lies and says that everything is fine. Truth without compassion is cruel. If possible, find this glimmer of hope in the truth and try to focus on this element.
Focus the conversation on the hopeful side of things, but DON’T let the truth down. Don’t worry if the news is bad. Too often, when we share the truth, we try to move quickly and change the subject to keep going.
Discomfort could be too much to bear. But when we share the truth in a polite, respectful way, you realize that compassion requires that we stay there for an element of time.
4. Silence is better than lying.
Sometimes you are just in a difficult situation and there are no easy answers. The truth seems dangerous, but you are determined to maintain your integrity, so lying is NOT an option.
At the moment, a solid technique could be to simply remain silent. If you don’t say anything, you can often be prevented from lighting the flames, and at the same time you can hold onto the truth. Note that this is a temporary situation. Finally, you have to speak.
It is important to be aware of your surroundings. There could be a better time to share this truth. This is especially true in abuse situations. The truth may need to be spoken to an abuser in a safer environment with others who will give you up again.
Too often, however, it can be silent for years before something is said. If you choose silence, develop a plan to uncover the truth.
Honesty is crucial in all situations. While we may have to be creative as we say, we have to make this a hallmark of our character. In my experience, the truth always comes out anyway – it is better if it comes from YOU.
Our world needs more trust – and that can only be done with honesty. So let’s strive to be honest in our daily lives.