Image Credit: Karen S., Norwalk, CT
What’s the one thing I’ve learned in life that trumps all others, what’s the one thing that makes humans different. Is it our ability to love? No, your dog can love you. Is it our ability to speak? No, all life communicates. How about our cognitive ability? Not even that, animals have adapted to their worlds and obstacles for millennia. What sets us as a species apart from any other lifeform is our ability to lie. We have this amazing part of us that allows us to be willingly dishonest with one another. Day by day we go around telling others stories and facts with dishonest information. Why though? What makes me different from the neighbor's cat? Or even better what makes me different than a dolphin, or ape? As a human I have been taught that lying is okay, where it started I can not tell you. From childbirth we are taught that misinforming the population, whether large or small, is okay. If I tell my friend I can’t come over because my mom said so when it’s really because I don’t want to see them that is a lie, but what makes this okay? Humans have this worry of avoiding conflict, of not wanting to harm that which we love, and what we don’t. Instead of saying what happened, they would much rather say an alternate, or “bend the truth”. This affects us more than we can even comprehend. What is a lie? It can be physical, emotional, or verbal, all forms of communication. Cheating, deceit, and blatant lies are all forms of dishonesty. As I told a friend “people don’t get mad at honesty, ever. If you’re always honest, you don’t cheat, you don’t deceive, you don’t bend your way out of things. You do what you say and people know they can hold you to your word. An honest world if a perfect world, but humans aren’t honest, that’s why we’re not perfect.” You tell me a situation that when you were completely honest things went wrong. I’m talking about being completely honest, keeping to your word, and only speaking what you can and will do. If I tell my girlfriend I will be faithful, and I keep to that, there are now no problems. If I tell a friend I will pay him back tomorrow and I do so there are no problems. Even with the start of a situation beginning in a lie (cheating, etc.) it can be fixed with the truth.
My whole life I’ve been a lying and deceitful person, and I can’t and am not very proud of that. Through my actions I have hurt those I love, care for, and everyone in between. How can you be happy with your life knowing you couldn’t be honest with your family and those in your life. Every day I wake up ashamed of who I am and what I’ve done. When I hear my peers speak of how proud they are of their accomplishments I am shadowed by their completions in life. How can I be proud of myself knowing I hurt my family, but the guy next to me is an honor roll student with no worries of the future. I wonder on the daily how my future will turn out, if I’ll ever be proud of what I’ve done. When most people look in their futures they see a very straightforward and distinct thought, with very particular ideals and items. When I see my future there is nothing, a blank space that says “I really don’t know” with a shrug of the shoulders. The adults tell me that one day it’ll just click, and you’ll know what it is. I’m nearing adulthood and that has yet to happen, so what will come of me? I know I won’t be one of those people who changes the world, I’m no Martin Luther King or Newton, nowhere even close. So what can I do, little ole me? I may not be able to change the world, but maybe I can change just enough lives for the better to make it worthwhile. In the past year I have learned quite a bit, I’m hoping some of my new ideals will help out just enough people to spread a little more happiness throughout my community.
What’s the only thing I own, and will always own? My words, my freedom of speech will never die. Words are just word until you make them yours, then they’re eternal. So make a difference, show the world how rational irrationality can be. I wake up now going out of my way to help those I can, to do my part. I may not be anything like some of those who precede me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try. I’ve been shown by modern society that if you can’t do something don’t worry about it and move on. Is that the right thing to do though? I’m starting to learn how much more rewarding holding the door for the next lady or carrying the older gentleman's groceries to his car really is. I 100% believe that it came to be through getting rid of the dishonesty in my life. After the first time of hurting those you care for it really messes with you. It teaches you that you have such a large impact through your words, that you do matter. Honesty led me to the start of a long trek to rekindle my self respect and self worth. It’s not easy but I see more pride in my father’s eyes by the day, I see more trust and care squirming it’s way back into my life, I see happiness and love, friends and family. My eyes were blinded by the cataracs that were my lies. I had gone for so long it was near second nature, but now every thought I have anymore is “Will I be proud of this in 10 years” my “What would Jesus do” if you will. Thinking of the effects on those around you really makes you ponder every action before you do so. I used to see opportunities to better my life and would immediately take them; now I notice how much that can, will, and did hurt those I loved. I know everyone says to learn from my mistakes, but I won’t tell you to do so, as I’ve showed you I learned from my own. However if you do decide to repeat some of the things I’ve done in your own life, maybe you’ll perceive it that much better, maybe even save yourself. I can only hope.
What would happen if lying were the norm? Spouses wouldn’t be able to trust one another; leaders wouldn’t be credible; and the news would be meaningless. Everything, and I mean everything, depends on honesty. That’s why it’s so critical to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The truth is . . . we can’t build relationships if we mistrust what friends say; we won’t follow leaders if we mistrust what they do; and we can’t make good decisions if we doubt the accuracy of the information that we receive. Absent truth, instead of taking action, we’d spend our time looking over other people’s shoulders, second-guessing their intent, and unraveling the facts from the falsehoods. The result is that trust is shattered, reputations are damaged, and suspicion rules the day.
So, why do people lie? The reasons are countless. People lie to make themselves look better, steal the credit, cover up poor performance, conceal mistakes, deflect the blame, protect their reputations, and deceive and manipulate people. Regardless of the motive, the ultimate results are the same. As someone once said, “The worst thing about being lied to is knowing you’re not worth the truth.”
The Truth Is Not What It Seems, But What It Is
Dishonesty comes in many shapes and sizes. Of course, some people lie in error, in which they wholeheartedly believe their words when they’re spoken. Others tell bold-faced lies, knowing full well that they’re being deceitful. And still other people tell white lies, hoping to protect someone (often themselves) from the truth. Yet even though some of these folks may be well intentioned, it’s all lying just the same. How do you identify a lie? As a general rule of thumb, if your ears hear one thing and your eyes see another, use your brain — because something is obviously wrong. Here are some common forms of dishonesty that masquerade as acceptable behavior:
Misrepresentation. Distorting facts to consciously mislead or create a false impression. Spinning the truth, presenting opinion as fact, and using revisionist thinking or euphemisms to masquerade the truth are all forms of misrepresentation.
Omission. Leaving out key information to intentionally deceive someone. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Half the truth is often a great lie.”
Fabrication. Deliberately inventing an untruth or spreading a falsehood such as gossip or a rumor.
Exaggeration. Stretching the truth to give a more favorable impression.
Denial. Refusing to acknowledge the truth or to accept responsibility for a mistake or falsehood that was made.
Lack of transparency. Withholding information knowing that full disclosure will have negative consequences.
Redirection. Deflecting blame to another person to prevent personal embarrassment or responsibility.
False recognition. Stealing the credit for someone else’s hard-earned success.
Broken promise. Making a promise with no intention of keeping it.
Cover-up. Protecting the misdeeds of others. Those who provide cover for the misdeeds of others are as guilty as those who perpetrate the “crime.”
Hypocrisy. Saying one thing and consciously doing another. When words don’t match actions, someone is being dishonest with others or themselves.
Bait and switch. Attracting someone with an exciting offer only to divert them to an inferior deal.
Living a lie. Pretending that you are something you’re not.
Any way you cut it, when people distort the truth, they put their credibility at risk, while lowering their personal standards of honesty. Remember, BIG or small . . . a lie is a lie. Furthermore, a lie repeated many times doesn’t change the truth. Additionally, one or many believers don’t determine the truth or untruth. There’s no excuse for dishonesty. None. As someone once said, “The truth doesn’t cost anything, but a lie could cost you everything.”
Honesty: Truth Be Told
The value of honesty cannot be overstated. Every time someone lies, alarm bells aren’t going to go off and that person’s nose isn’t going to get larger (like Pinocchio’s), but something definitely happens. The liar may suspect that the only reason the customer said, “yes” to his proposal, the only way she dodged the blame, and the only reason the recipient of the lie thought highly of him or her was due to the lie itself. The question remains: Even though they fooled someone else, how do liars feel about themselves? The obvious truth is that they thought they didn’t deserve the outcome or else they would have told the truth in the first place. They may explain away the lie by telling themselves that everybody does it or that the lie fell in a gray area. But I must ask you, is that any way to live your life?
When you stand for honesty, you believe in yourself and everything you represent. When you stand for honesty, everything you say carries the voice of credibility. But, when you’re dishonest, your soiled reputation will do the speaking for you.
There are several things you can do to demonstrate honesty:
- Think before you speak.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say.
- Bend over backward to communicate in an open and honest fashion.
- Simplify your statements so that everyone clearly understands your message.
- Tell it like it is, rather than sugarcoating it.
- Present both sides of each issue to engender objectivity.
- If you have a personal bias or a conflict of interest, make it known.
- Tell people the rationale behind your decisions so that your intent is understood.
- If something is misinterpreted, quickly correct the record.
- Don’t shoot the messenger when someone tells you the truth. Thank them for their honesty and treat the information provided as a gift.
- Willingly accept responsibility by admitting a mistake or an error in judgment — in a timely fashion.
- Hold people accountable when their words do not match their actions.
- Never compromise your integrity and reputation by associating yourself with people whose standards of integrity you mistrust.
The truth shouldn’t be told only when it’s convenient. Honesty must be a way of life. Honesty means that you care deeply about trust, cherish your relationships, and value the importance of a solid reputation. Honesty means that you try to do your best and are willing to accept the consequences of your actions. Honesty means that you respect others enough to tell them the truth and that you value your opinion of yourself enough to never live a lie. As the saying goes, “It’s simple. Never lie to someone who trusts you, and never trust someone who lies to you.” That’s why it’s critical to always tell the truth — or the truth will tell on you. Honest.
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Posted on Filed Under: Blog, Leadership, Self-help, Trust and Integrity Image licensed from Shutterstock