“Honesty is the best policy.” According to various sources the saying has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin and some English Bishop in the 16th century. It’s a time tested, trustworthy saying and good advice. Most people don’t set out to be dishonest. Sometimes, however, we are confronted with the reality that we have been less than honest with ourselves and others. So how can we avoid these lapses in character and be more honest.
We might begin with another old saying, “to thine own self be true.” This one is from Hamlet by William Shakespeare. The more complete quote is instructive.
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.
The first way to address the issue is to listen to yourself. One of the beginnings of dishonest communication is exaggeration. The proverbial “fish story”; where the fish in question gets longer and bigger with every telling. It comes in all manner of forms.
“Why there must have been a thousand of them!” Yet if you were to honestly estimate it was more like 200. One exaggeration to make a point maybe acceptable; however, one easily becomes a habit. Before you know it people don’t trust your account of things.
The second way to become more honest is to recognize the truth of projections. Psychologist know and understand that we tend to see in others what we dislike and disown in ourselves. When some behavior of others is really annoying you may benefit from asking the question, “How am I like that?” Jesus taught the same thing when he told us to take the log out of our own eye before attempting to take the splinter out of our neighbor’s. Nothing makes me more annoyed that the guy driving past me on the shoulder of the road when the rest of us are waiting our turn to get ahead! The truth be told it’s because I want to do the same.
The third means to becoming more honest is to be more honest even in the small things, even when it is inconvenient. For example, you are getting in your car after shopping and discover an item in your pocket that you forgot to actually purchase. No one but you knows. It was only a dollar. Get out of the car. Go back and pay for it. If you will be honest in these small ways you will be less tempted when a bigger temptation crosses your path.
The truth is that it can be difficult to be honest in today’s world. However, a good reputation and an honest character are the best policy.