What is honesty? We tend to think of honesty as what it’s not: not telling lies. And while yes, this is true, there is a much bigger picture here. So what is honesty? Telling the truth is the simple answer. But that’s really only another way of saying that it’s not telling lies. Is there a deeper answer? A more powerful meaning? A hidden truth? To utilize an over-used cliché, honesty is like an onion, with layers of meaning that need to be understood individually to grasp the whole truth of what honesty really is.
So let’s start with the simple answer: telling the truth. A statement that is deceptively simple. Ironic, right? But what is truth? If you say, “The sky is blue,” you are telling the truth. Some days the sky is gray and overcast, or even black with storm clouds. But still, the blue sky is up there, we just can’t see it. Lies are like those storm clouds, hiding and obscuring the truth. How many people can honestly say that they always tell the truth? No one. Even those who so seldom tell lies that they have a solid reputation for honesty are few and far between. Why do we tell lies? To avoid getting in trouble? To impress our boss, or our coworkers, or our friends, or our girl/boyfriend? To get something we want? Basically, we tell lies for 2 simple reasons: fear and desire.
But let’s go a little deeper in our study of the honesty onion. What is the next step of being honest? Doing the truth. How can one do the truth, you ask? Are you telling me that you never did something to cover your tracks so no one suspected what you had done? Even if we never actually say a falsehood, doing something to throw another person off what we’re really up to is a lie just the same. Think of the kid who hides in the pantry with the cookie jar. While our methods may become more sophisticated as we grow up, deceiving another person through our actions is every bit as wrong as telling an outright lie.
The third layer of honesty is living the truth. This one is less about deceiving those around us and more about being honest with ourselves. Every single person carries a truth in his or her heart that no one else can hear. The truth of who you really are and what you can do. Most of us can’t even hear our own truth and even when we do, we talk ourselves out of believing it. We convince ourselves that we’re not pretty enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, not good enough. That we don’t deserve that or can’t do this. So we settle for less than what we deserve, for less than who we are. We give up, stop trying, let life carry us where it will.
And now we arrive at the core of what honesty really is: being the truth. When we find our center, we also find the center of truth. And when we do that, then living, doing, and telling the truth just kinda flows naturally. And there is no longer any room for phoniness, either in ourselves or in the people around us. When we are real and genuine and true, we walk in a light and peace that no one else can touch. We can also see right through the phony charades deceitful people play. Even if we can’t clearly articulate it, we can sense when someone is not real or genuine. And real people don’t have time for deception. Some of us are blessed with inherent honesty; some of us have to work for it. Either way, I have one piece of advice for you: trust your gut. It is always honest, even when your head is not.