Honesty Should Be the Best Policy

>> Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The answers I received to yesterday's questions didn't surprise me sadly, all the more reason to be unhappy about them.

I was tickled, of course, that Beth Beck stopped by, which was gratifying and unexpected. But I was hoping I was wrong about the prevalence of dishonesty, laying low, keeping a low profile, not rocking the boat. Why?

In the real world, where physics and chemistry and biology rule reality, the head in the sand techniques, looking the other way, lies and self-deception get people killed, whether the lie is that you haven't had too many drinks to get behind the wheel, vaccines cause autism and should be avoided, or that unexplained, uncontrolled and recurrent damage isn't a safety of flight issue.

But those are just the lies that will kill you (or someone else) quick. There are other lies like words can't hurt people. There's the hatred we hide behind our right to have our own opinions, the professed belief that poor people can never amount to anything, that minorities can never be anybody, that what you are determined who you could become. Each of those lies can discourage a child from pursuing his/her potential - to all of our detriment. And, as sad as it when an outside group promotes that notion, it's even sadder when the minority itself does so.

Lies such as the ones that said real estate prices could only go up, or that taking out three mortgages well beyond one's salary was workable have devastated families across the nation - some losing homes, some losing retirement funds and some losing jobs. Lies about the future of oil and the innocence of carbon may cost people around the world.

Lies can buy people short term gain, but, in the long run, they always lose, they always cause pain (if not more). Lies cost lives and money, reputation and trust. We've gotten blase about honesty, we've maligned it and told ourselves it has to be sacrificed in order to be successful. And, even if we aren't lying personally, we sit quietly by and let the lie live. And that's the just part of the same deception.

I disagree. And I will continue to do so because our future needs honesty more than it needs almost anything else. We won't be able to solve the problems we've caused today without addressing them honestly. Hatred, fear and paranoia are harder to incite (as well as the violence that readily follows) among people who don't deceive themselves.

In the end, it was the Mother who summed it up perfectly: "If no one speaks up, things never change. Kudos to those who at least TRY."

Even if I'm wrong, I want to live honestly. That is part of what I want to give to the future. And, if we, as a nation, can't go down this path, we will be our own destruction.

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.
-Mahatma Gandhi


  • flit

    very cool that Beth dropped by; I always like it when stuff like that happens.

  • The Mother

    On the issue of lies, I highly recommend the new movie, "The Invention of Lying."

    While lies told for personal gain are often devastating, lies told for the other person are often tender and uplifting. That was one of the interesting points of this movie.

    Gervais was great, and he made his points without being too heavy handed.

    (Fascinatingly, I think hubby and I were the only ones in the theater who got his other main point. Another atheist friend of mine said the same thing about her experience when she saw it separately.)

    Anyway, MY point is that too much honesty can also be devastating.

    I, however, tend to err on the devastating side. Gets me into SO much trouble.

  • Roy

    It's interesting that you're discussing this now. There was a report on Morning Edition (NPR's morning news show) today on how, in the face of the economic situation and the ever-dwindling job market, the workplace is getting very, very vicious. These days far too many people seem to be willing to throw somebody else under the bus to save their own job.

    And in fact I heard a story about this just yesterday from a friend who is also another The Home Depot exile. Our friend Bernie ran Tool Rental up there, and one day a guy was returning a propane tank to get a new one. Unfortunately the store was out of new, filled tanks, and the guy wasn't willing to come back another day, so he wanted his money back.

    Unfortunately at this point the power went down; the registers won't work, and policy is to escort people out of the store until the power comes back up. But this guy's in a hurry and wants his money back, so Bernie calls Peter, the head cashier, over, and Peter pops the register open to give the guy his refund. Later, when the power comes back up, Bernie and Peter ring the transaction through so everything is cool.

    But Bernie broke the rules in the first place, giving the guy his money back when the registers are down, and Pierre, the manager, found out about it. He called both Bernie and Peter into the office, and right away Peter swore he had no idea that's why Bernie needed the register opened, to give a cash refund; he swore he thought Bernie needed the drawer opened to retrieve some keys usually kept in the drawer. Peter threw Bernie under the bus. Bernie lost his job, but Peter kept his.

    I'm sure there are more stories out there like this. NPR certainly found it prevalent enough to do a report on it. It's sad. No, it's downright scary.

  • Jeff King

    yea i try and live honestly, but if a cop asked me if i was speeding and all i had to say was no i was not! to get out of it... i sorry to say i probaly would lie.
    but most other instances i tell the truth. but i will never say there is not a time to lie, but that is a personal choice.

  • Stephanie B

    The Mother, I tried once stepping around honesty with my first husband. You know, having to lie to your friends doesn't really work for either one of you. I do try to be nice and admit there have been occasions where I've lied in a way I felt necessary for someone's else's happiness, but I'm not sure it was the right thing to do.

    Perhaps, if we all took honesty as an expectation (rather than support, no matter what), we might have a lot better understanding of reality and who our friends were.

    Roy, I agree, chilling. If one rewards dishonesty in a business, how does that not bite one in the butt?

  • Relax Max

    The larger the company, the less middle management wants to deal with "extra" things, like suggestions for improvement. Don't rock the boat. Stay under the radar. Why? Because corporate (home office) already employs people to formulate the company's "vision" and contain costs and drive the predetermined business plan. This usually means their motive is profit and not necessarily excellence. Profit most often comes from providing the minimum service necessary to keep too many customers from complaining. Sad, but true. In other words, usually it is more work for your manager, and he or she will get nothing out of it. Big corporations who still truly value, and heed, employee input are rare. And successful. It has more to do with laziness than dishonesty though. My opinion.

  • Stephanie B

    Mine too, Relax Max.

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