Imagine you find out that a friend you trust so much lied to you.
Like me during my days as a student president at the university. My friend in school stole a hard drive from his roommate, and two smartphones from his floormates.
When they reported the matter to me, I called my friend and spoke to him alone (on several occasions) to tell me the truth. He looked me in the eye shivering and denied the allegations.
After much investigation, I found him guilty. Those he stole from pleaded with me not to take disciplinary action. I agreed. But before I could return the stolen items I recovered from him the following day, he broke into my room in my absence and stole them alongside my little cash and power bank.
The betrayal and audacious theft left me heartbroken and furious, especially because I least expected it from a friend.
I discovered he had been stealing in the past unbeknownst to me. And after much thought, I resolved that he may be a Kleptomaniac and needed help. His victims still insisted I let it slide so I did. But the pain lingered.
What about you? Have you lied to someone before? The answer is likely; yes. I have too. But what were your reasons?
In this article, we will explore the surprising positivity of honesty and truthfulness in our lives including some common challenges to these values and how to overcome them.
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”― William Shakespeare, Hamlet
What Is The Difference Between Honesty And Truthfulness
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, honesty is a noun meaning “adherence to the facts”, while truthfulness is an adjective meaning “telling or disposed to tell the truth”.
Consider this example from a Forbes article;
Lawyers must be honest, but they don’t have to be truthful. Honesty and truthfulness are not the same thing. Being honest means not telling lies. Being truthful means actively making known all the full truth of a matter. Lawyers must be honest, but they do not have to be truthful. A criminal defense lawyer, for example, in zealously defending a client, has no obligation to actively present the truth. Counsel may not deliberately mislead the court, but has no obligation to tell the defendant’s whole story. In the U.S. legal system, a witness has to tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” but apparently an attorney does not.
This means you can be honest without saying the truth. Say before the theft case, you ask me if my friend was a thief, I’ll say, “No”. I was honest but that wasn’t the truth.
Now you understand why I can’t talk about honesty independent of truthfulness in this article.
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Why Honesty Is Important
To live an authentic life, you must be honest to yourself and those around you about your personality, actions and intentions.
The importance of honesty in building a just and fair society is evident in the justice system where witnesses are required in court to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”.
In another example of one of my leadership escapades, as a class prefect in secondary school, I always reported my classmates who did examination malpractice. Besides my role as the class prefect, I wasn’t going to let them beat me to the first position in class by cheating.
My classmates despised me for it but I was at peace with my conscience because we were taught in church that those who commit such acts as well as lying would go to hell. And little me wanted to go to heaven instead. (Grown me ain’t religious anymore. But I still uphold the value of honesty.)
However, during our secondary school reunion in December last year, a few of them were grateful for what I did as it encouraged them to make better choices. At the end of our meeting, I was elected our alumni president.
Honesty is a valuable quality because it provides you with the following benefits;
- It makes you a reliable person
- It gives you a good self-image
- You have peace of mind
- It makes you obedient to rules and regulations
- You avoid unnecessary drama
- It enables you to maintain discipline
- You don’t hurt others
- You show that you’re brave
- It gives you an admirable reputation
- It is the starting point to resolve problems
When your friends and colleagues see how honest and truthful you are, it can encourage them to stay truthful to you (and even to others). You don’t want to be taken for a fool when lied to, do you?
Challenges to Honesty and Truthfulness; Why We Lie
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Of course, telling the truth is not always as sweet as chocolate neither is it as easy as eating it.
There may be times when we are tempted to lie or deceive such as in the following examples;
- To achieve a professional goal. Say an undercover cop who has to lie about his true identity to infiltrate a mafia gang and bring criminals to justice.
- To avoid negative consequences. As in a lady who lied she didn’t have a child so her partner won’t refuse to marry her.
- To protect one’s reputation by lying about their achievements or experiences so they can impress their peers, or woo their crush.
- To fit in and try to conform to societal expectations people may lie about their interests or beliefs to be accepted by their peers.
- To avoid conflict. People may lie to spare someone’s feelings and avoid hurting them or to avoid an argument. Say telling someone they have body odour.
- To cheat. For instance, most athletes lie about their age and doping habits so they can be allowed to participate and cheat their way to winning.
But are there times when it is okay not to be truthful? The answer would be; depending on the intent.
Not being truthful means that you disclose false, exaggerated, or half-baked information, as well as not disclosing any information at all.
For instance, the first example we gave can be perceived as tolerable since it is for the greater good.
The other examples are bad because the long-term consequences of such actions can be detrimental and inescapable. Like when the partner of the lady who lied about her child finds out, the feeling of betrayal may even lead to a heart attack and then death.
When you’re not authentic you lead a fake life which will make you hurt others and yourself as a result.
How you speak the truth is also as important as what truth you speak of. You should not sound rude. This will make the person defensive and ruin your aim of making them accept the truth and do better. Ergo, ensure to be kind as people mostly lie due to their insecurity.
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Benefits of Honesty and Truthfulness
I would say my knack for honesty has always landed me in leadership roles and maintaining healthy relationships with people.
Trust is a high currency now in today’s society, especially in the workplace.
For instance, I remember where I worked once as a barber. My boss was also a barber. He often left the shop in my care to give a daily account of all the earnings. Sometimes, he would forget some Naira notes in the shop and I always gave it to him. When I told my friend how forgetful my boss can be, he said those may have been tests (and if that was the case, I passed by not getting fired).
The benefits of honesty are numerous. They include;
1. It preserve your integrity;
When you are honest and truthful, you uphold values that bolster a positive self-image. This makes you an authentic and mature person since you are not afraid of responsibility. It also makes your words valuable because people know they can trust what you say. While people may hate you for being honest and truthful sometimes, you will mostly earn their respect.
2. It strengthens relationships;
Being honest and truthful with others will help you build trust and credibility, which are essential for strong, healthy relationships. This is particularly important in close relationships, such as those with family and friends, as honesty and truthfulness are often key foundations of these types of relationships. It will also connect you to high-quality friends.
3. It facilitates career success;
Honesty and truthfulness are catalysts for success in professional life. Employers often value honesty and truthfulness in their employees, as it helps to build trust and credibility within the organization. If you’re an entrepreneur, it will also help improve your relationship with your customers and thereby boost the growth of your business.
4. Honesty can help you avoid guilt;
When we are not truthful, we often feel restless and guilty. It can lead us to develop a consensus bias that anyone who speaks to us may not be honest. Also, there’s a saying that “nothing is hidden under the sun”. It entails that the truth always finds a way of surfacing. And the damage is usually more intense when a lie is uncovered after a long time. Such a break of trust is likely unrepairable as you may not get a second chance. If someone finds out you weren’t honest with them, they may remain sceptical of you even when you say the truth. But if we choose to be honest, we can avoid these negative outcomes.
5. Not being honest and truthful can be stressful;
The truth is often bitter but it can be a thousand times more harmful if it is exposed as a lie later. When we are not truthful, it may cause a spiral effect since we mostly need a new lie to cover up a previous one. It is tiring to remember the details of a lie when asked about it at a later time. You may even need constant rehearsals. But when you’re honest, it’s easier to explain yourself anytime you’re queried about the subject.
6. Being honest can help others become honest;
Due to conformity bias, those who associate with you may unconsciously develop honesty and truthfulness. Also, when you’re honest and truthful with others about their flaws you can help them improve.
7. Honesty can boost your confidence;
When you are honest and truthful, you tend to be fearless. This makes you bold, courageous and confident. Being honest and truthful will make you brave rather than a coward and it keeps your self-esteem at an all-time high.
8. Honesty can improve your reputation;
A popular Bible passage states, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great wealth or riches…” The good thing is when you have a good reputation, personal and professional success is usually inevitable. You will enjoy respect and high status in society when you practice honesty and truthfulness. This is because people will tend to be fond of you since you can be reliable and trusted.
9. Honesty can improve your health;
Keeping up with dishonesty can be tiresome. Such stress can have serious negative effects on your health such as increased blood pressure due to anxiety and depression. On the other hand, when you’re honest and truthful your overall well-being improves since you get to have peace of mind and are settled with your conscience.
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” — Thomas Jefferson.
How To Be Honest And Truthful
Overcoming the challenges of being honest and truthful can be difficult but the benefits are worthwhile. You can become more honest and truthful in the following ways;
1. Do not exaggerate;
Before I found out about my friend’s theft, I noticed he always exaggerates. This made me stop taking him seriously. While you may be truthful, exaggerating makes you appear desperate for validation. It can also encourage you to lie and when people sense it, they will always be sceptical about you. So endeavour to be straightforward.
2. Do not understate;
As with exaggeration, giving half-baked information impedes being honest and truthful. Don’t forget to include critical details in your narrative.
3. Tackle why you lie;
Identify why you are dishonest and untruthful most of the time. For example; if you lie to gain validation, you are probably insecure. Ergo, practice self-love, build confidence and stop comparing yourself to others. If it’s to prevent a negative consequence, take responsibility for your actions and avoid things that will get you into trouble.
4. Be respectful;
Being dishonest and untruthful can be disrespectful. When you do such, you insult people’s intelligence and take them for a fool for trusting you. This will make them regret your acquaintance. Respect, they say, is reciprocal.
5. Avoid lairs;
Remember what I said about conformity bias? We are usually influenced by those we like to be around. Like they say, “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are”. So surround yourself with honest and truthful people and those traits will rub off on you and keep you from lying.
6. Have faith;
Believe in yourself to have the courage to be honest and truthful. Have faith that those you tell the truth will appreciate your honesty. Even if it leads to a mess now, it will get better in the future.
“Honesty doesn’t always pay but dishonesty always costs.” – Michael Josephson
Knowing how it feels to be lied to, you should always put yourself in others’ shoes and opt for honesty and truthfulness.
Intrapersonal conflict can arise when we are dishonest. Being honest and truthful is not for the faint-hearted but when we have a clear conscience through honesty and truthfulness, we can prevent a lot of wahala. So embrace the truth and be authentic.
When you ever feel like lying, remember all the benefits of honesty and truthfulness we discussed in this article. Implement them and enjoy peace of mind.
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I enjoy literary works (especially in the form of books and songs) and learning about human psychology.
I’m also interested in intellectual development, fitness/athleticism, and waste management.