Because this post reflects upon the concept of honesty, I should probably set the record straight about how I largely came to my views about the importance of this virtue. That is, like most humans, I learned about honesty through personal dishonesty. So, like most people, I cannot lay claim to sainthood in this regard.
I can sum the personal milestones of this discovery by simply naming them. 1. For a very short while, I sold used cars in San Jose, California. 2. I worked in advertising in Norfolk, Nebraska. 3. I was in the closet about my true nature wherever I lived. 4. I once had aspirations of entering politics in Nebraska. These events are not in chronological order but their influences were cumulative in roughly that order. Their influences are what one expects to find in those situations.
During these chapters of my life, there was the inner discussion about character and the quality of life. Like most people, I was taught that we should safeguard our character by striving to live according to timeless ideals. My parents, teachers, and spiritual gurus stressed the virtues of moral courage, generosity, kindness, integrity, and honesty. These must be more than just buzzwords for the ways we deal with ourselves and others.
“We learned about honesty and integrity–that the truth matters… that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules… and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.”–Michelle Obama
Think what you will about the Obama family, what the former first lady said is a reiteration of wisdom that has been advocated and affirmed through the centuries. Her statement is simply one of the more recent ones in a string of older pithy statements about honesty.
A luminary no less than William Shakespeare said, “No legacy is so rich as honesty.” Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Honesty is the best policy.” Baseball great Jackie Robinson said, “Many people resented my impatience and honesty, but I never cared about acceptance as much as I cared about respect.” These statements are all worth pondering. We can understand that they were addressing wisdom in living one’s life well.
This wisdom about honesty is sorely missing in much of contemporary culture. In modern America, it seems that honesty has been thrown under the bus in order to achieve short-sighted goals. Millions of us do regard honesty to be vitally important.
“Methinks thou dost protest too much”–William Shakespeare
One must be cautious when speaking of or writing about the virtues because of what is too often the case. That is the person who most strongly advocates in favor of morality may be guilty of violating morality at some core level. Too often we have the examples of public figures who are sanctimonious about morality who are later caught in the act of committing major social crimes. For instance, we frequently hear about religious leaders involved in sex scandals or embezzlement. All of these incidents boil down to issues of their hypocrisy or lack of honesty.
“Treat those who are good with goodness, and also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus goodness is attained. Be honest to those who are honest, and be also honest to those who are not honest. Thus honesty is attained.”–Lao Tzu
Of course there is a major caveat regarding honesty. It is best illustrated by Miss Manners, Judith Martin. “‘Honesty’ in social life is often used as a cover for rudeness. But there is quite a difference between being candid in what you’re talking about and people voicing their insulting opinions under the name of honesty.”
This is probably all that needs to be said about honesty for today.