“Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living and truth loving.” —James E Faust
Every time I put pen to paper, it is because I think someone else might be experiencing what I am and might benefit from the things I’m finding in my research.
My goal is always to be honest about life and trust that others are hungry for it, too. As Faust said, honesty isn’t just about not lying to you, it’s also about speaking, living and loving truth. So, here I am, doing more than just not telling you a lie – telling you the truth, even when it is not comfortable.
Think about each part of your life and consider how not lying is different than telling the truth. For instance, my husband might honestly say that the chicken pot pie was good, but to really speak the truth, he might need to say how much better he thinks it would have tasted if I left out the lima beans.
Telling me that truth sets me up to make a pot pie he’ll like even better the next time. Not lying is OK, but telling the truth is often much better. Or if he does a load of laundry, I cannot lie and say how nice it was for him to pitch in, or I can go a step further and speak the truth that it would be even better if he would check the pockets of clothes before putting them in the wash so we don’t have tissue parts all in the wet clothes. This is only an example. There’s no chance this happened in my house.
Truth telling is important, but so is the ability to hear the truth. I know I refer to it a lot, but this reminds me of the agreement that says, “Do not be offended.” When people speak a truth we need to hear, we need to listen and be gracious as we consider what that truth means for us.
Maybe there is a better way to study, a better way to organize your cabinets, a better way to get where you need to be, or a better way to make chicken pot pie. If we avoid making the truth offensive, we can become better people.
When our choices won’t affect other people, we can do what we want, within reason. If the doctor says that you only have six months to live, for instance, it’s your choice how you spend those six months bringing joy to yourself and to those you love. But if the doctor tells you that allowing your child to eat what they want is setting them up for diabetes, your choices are affecting at least a few other people. The ability to hear the truth and do something good with it really does matter. I didn’t say it would always be easy.
Honesty with others, listening to others’ honesty and honesty with ourselves seem to be the areas that are most important surrounding truth. With truth being so important, would it surprise you to know that in a study by University of Massachusetts it was found that 60% of people can’t have a 10-minute conversation without lying at least once?
Why be honest with others? This doesn’t include the times truth is more harmful such as with a dementia patient or when making amends. Sometimes, less is more.
Honesty requires less energy – thinking up a lie or trying to remember your lies is exhausting.
Honesty with others will attract honest people to you – dishonesty will attract people you can’t trust.
Honesty with others builds a reputation people know they can trust –dishonesty builds a reputation, too.
Honesty means not giving people power to hold a lie over your head.
Why be honest with yourself?
Honesty with yourself allows you to make the best choices for yourself – saying we don’t have a problem with depression, anger, food, alcohol or shopping, for example, when we do will put our best days further from our reach.
Honesty with yourself enables you to use your skills, your talents to do things you want to be doing – changing careers, starting a new business, trying out for a play.
Honesty with yourself helps you to be honest with others – it’s all connected, honest people attracting honest people attracting happier lives.
Sometimes, it is helpful to hear the truth from other people, people who care about us. As I said in the opening paragraph, hearing the truth isn’t always comfortable. Friends offer feedback or just walk away. Doctors suggest ways you might have a longer and healthier life. Spouses suggest ways to improve chicken pot pie, and it’s up to us to not take it personally or as an offense but to recognize the truth and its role in helping us become better people, healthier people, and better cooks.
It seems that while 88% of those in the workforce say they would like to know if they could improve something in their job, the majority don’t actually like when it happens. I’m guessing it goes back to the idea of cognitive dissonance – finding it difficult to have two beliefs that aren’t consistent. How do you come to grips with the fact that you believe you are doing your best work, yet find out that your boss thinks you could do things differently? Letting go of our need to be right is probably a great place to start.
The truth is a funny thing. It’s almost always the better choice, often uncomfortable, and will almost always result in a chance of hurt and someone having some positive growth in their life. I hope for each of us we can tell, speak, live, and love the truth a little more today than we did yesterday. Hold on. It’s going to be a great ride.
Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University who lives in Murfreesboro. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Sometimes, she matches her words and pictures. Always, she writes from her heart with the hope of speaking to the hearts of others.