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 will give us the ability to have conversations and actions that can solve problems.
Taking this seriously though, 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 when I am honest in all conversations and interactions.
This meant that I told my children the truth about the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny from their childhood. They experienced all of the joys and gifts from these characters, but always knew that it really was mom and dad. I desire for them to always know that I will tell them the truth.
Some take this truth thing too far though. There is a right and wrong way to be honest. Below are some tips on how you can be honest the right way.
How You Can Be Honest All The Time
1.) Make sure what you have is the truth.
It happens often. There is a news headline that strikes us in a way. We get angry and start sharing it across the board. You rally your friends and maybe even start planning a protest. Then during a lull in the action, you actually read the article and discover that you totally misread the headline or the headline itself was misleading.
Before we move forward with the truth, be sure of your facts. This might surprise some of you, but not everything on the Web, in books, or even news on television is true. Sometimes, reporters simply make things up to press an agenda. Other times, they are misled.
Take time to figure out what the truth is before moving forward. When friends are sharing news, take time to check the source before moving into an uncomfortable conversation with someone. Once you confirm the facts, press on to bring the truth into the light.
2.) Be creative.
In the book, “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom, she recounts the story when officials came to look for Jews that were hiding in her home. She had already determined that she would lie to these men. This was easily justifiable, as the lie would save several hundred folks over the years from suffering and shame.
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 covered with a rug. When the officials asked where they were hiding the Jews, the sister replied that they were under the table.
Corrie recounts her own shock at how easy her sister simply spat the truth out to the detriment of the family that was hiding there. When the officials 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 left in a huff. The sister slept well knowing that she had spoken the truth and that the family was safe. That is a great win-win situation.
It is NOT always easy to tell the truth. My mother-in-law was once at a potluck where a member of the church had made a dessert that she was particularly proud of, and had insisted that my mother-in-law try.
With one bite, she knew that something was wrong. The baker was watching, waiting for the verdict that this was the best dessert ever. My mother-in-law responded that she had never tasted anything like it. It turns out the baker had accidently used salt instead of sugar and a later version was truly delightful.
In order to save someone embarrassment or dishonor, it is acceptable to tell the truth in a creative fashion. This takes more energy than a lie, but enables you to hold onto your integrity. Sometimes, we can tell the truth and hope that providence helps the repercussions to not be too serious.
3.) Truth with compassion.
Imagine going to the doctor and he tells you that you are going to die. Now that might very well be truth. But would it matter to you how it was said? Did the doctor look joyful when he shared the news? Did he choose he words carefully and expressed sympathy or sadness as he shared the news? Which do you prefer?
Obviously, it would not be in our best interest for the doctor to simply lie and say everything is fine. Truth without compassion is cruel. If possible, find that sliver of hope in the truth and try to focus on that element.
Focus the conversation on the hopeful side of things, but DO NOT forsake the truth. Allow for silence if the news is bad. Too often, when we share the truth, we try to move quickly and change the topic to move on.
Discomfort might be too much for us to bear. But when we share the truth in a polite, respectful way, realize that compassion requires us to stay there for an element of time.
4.) Silence is better than lies.
Sometimes, you are simply in a difficult situation and there are no easy answers. The truth seems to be dangerous, but you are determined to hold onto your integrity, so lying is NOT an option.
For the moment, a solid technique might be to simply remain silent. Saying nothing can often prevent you from fanning the flames, yet at the same time, allow you to hold on to the truth. Note that this is a temporary situation. Eventually, you must speak.
Being aware of your environment is important. There may be a better time to share that truth. This is particularly true in abuse situations. The truth may need to be spoken to an abuser in a safer environment with others who will give you back up.
Too often though, silence can go on for years before anything gets said. When you choose silence, choose to develop a plan to expose the truth as well.
Honesty is critical in all situations. While we might need to be creative in the way we tell it, we need to make this a hallmark of our character. From 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 come with honesty. So let us strive to be honest in our everyday lives.