What is honesty? What does it really mean? Is a half-truth really a lie or just a half-truth?
It is safe to say the definition of honesty can mean a lot of different things for a lot of different people. Wikipedia defines honesty as “the human quality of communicating and acting truthfully and with fairness.” Merriam-Webster defines honesty as “a fairness and straightforwardness of conduct; adherence to the facts.” How do you define honesty and what does it mean to you?
I think it’s also safe to say that we all expect honesty from others. No one likes the feeling of being deceived or lied to. However, do we practice honesty in our day-to-day living?
There are definitely some benefits to being honest. For one, it keeps us out of trouble. When we are honest, we have nothing to hide, and with nothing to hide, there is nothing to be found.
Honesty also gives us credibility with others. If caught in a predicament, people are more likely to believe those of us who have been honest and forthcoming.
It also gives us a sense of freedom. If you’ve ever found yourself holding on to a lie, you know the feeling of freedom that comes when you are able to tell the truth. When we tell the truth we feel better mentally and physically. Our lies and secrets often can make us sick in many different ways. When we are honest, we have better and closer relationships with others. Our relationships become more meaningful because we have better communication and an overall better sense of trust.
If you find that you are not an honest person, or would like to strive to be more honest, have no fear. Being honest really is not that difficult.
First, we have to examine the things that keep us dishonest. These things often are negative feelings or emotions. Sometimes we avoid being honest due to fear of how others will respond. Other times it may be a result of embarrassment. Other times it may be a result of trying to avoid conflict with others or taking responsibility for an action. When we can examine why we are being dishonest, we can begin to deal with those feelings, process them, and move forward toward more honest living.
We also have to practice telling the truth without exaggeration. Sounds a little silly, but how many times have you heard someone with outstretched hands say, “I caught a fish this big,” when it was really a tiny brim? How many times have you or someone else exaggerated how many clients you saw, how bad traffic was, or how much you spent on an item? When we practice telling the truth without exaggeration, it not only forces us to become more honest. It also forces us to begin to examine why we would exaggerate such details to begin with.
Lastly, we should practice honesty in simple situations. For example, you are in the drive-thru at a local fast food restaurant. You pay for your food, but you get $2 extra in change. Two dollars is not a lot of money these days. Do you drive off or return the extra money?
Let’s say you’re at home and a visitor comes by unannounced. Do you pretend to be sick or not at home or do you state you just don’t feel like company?
If you said you’d return the money and be honest with your visitor, you’re thinking honestly. When it becomes easy for us to be dishonest in small situations, it becomes even easier to be dishonest in bigger ones. If we make it a daily habit to practice honesty in all that we do, we find it much easier to become honest people more often.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Jun 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
White, D. (2013). Does it Really Matter If You Lie?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/06/06/does-it-really-matter-if-you-lie/