January 22, 2010

100% Honesty

"Honesty is the best policy," that's what they say. And, I do tend to agree with this statement.

I used to have morals that I felt were absolute. But, one day, I had to start thinking outside the black and white ~ delving into shades of gray. And, I have found that gray, though not always the most comfortable living situation, is what more is needed of.

Whatever the moral we're talking about, I have found that there is always something to counter the argument where that moral would perhaps need to be broken. Stealing, for instance, though generally frowned upon, could be viewed as needed, should you be starving (literally for days) with no money or access to money. In that situation, stealing a loaf of bread could quite literally mean the difference between life and death.

So, should your morals dictate that a person has a right to live AND that stealing is always bad, in the situation described above, you would be forced to find a gray area in order to stick to your ethical code in any fashion.

The same could be said of honesty. Is it really ALWAYS the best policy?

There are times where a police officer may need to lie to a suspect, in order to save a life (gain the suspect's trust to find the location of a kidnap victim, for instance). A victim may need to lie in order to save his or her own life or the life of a loved one during hostage situations, or even the more common mugging.

Lying can be a survival mechanism. In fact, the brain has devised lying as a means to protect one self. Think about when you were a child and you lied in order to save your behind from a potential butt-whooping. Your brain told you that telling the truth in this particular situation was dangerous. "Danger Will Robertson, Danger!"

To quote Eddie Izzard, "I was dead at the time."

Now, my mother countered this by smacking me if I was caught in a lie, even if the only reason I was caught was because I immediately copped to it. This is a method I highly suggest you do NOT use on a child (or anyone who immediately backpeddles to the truth). It was extremely ineffective, serving only to teach me that I needed to be craftier if I wanted to avoid parental wrath.

But then I started thinking about situations that are not life threatening, where a lie may be the better approach, the better policy for that individual situation.

Take, for instance, a relationship. Your wife has gained quite a few pounds, she's feeling depressed about it, perhaps she doesn't look quite as attractive as she did in her youth... is it really the best policy for you to say, "Yeah honey, you're fat and ugly now, but I still love ya!" Perhaps it would be better (and, in this particular situation, definitely better for your survival rate) to simply say, "You're beautiful". Is it 100% honest? Maybe, maybe not. If you love her, there is certainly truth in it, since there is more than one kind of beauty. You don't have to elaborate on the possible fact that you're not talking about her sexual appeal to the majority of the species.

And, what about situations where the truth can only bring pain, without ANY positive after effects? If the truth cannot bring healing, but a lie might? If your grandmother is dying, but you say, "You're going to be fine, back on your feet in no time."

Certainly, in every day life, these are not the norms. Certainly, in every day life, the truth is still the best policy, even if the truth is a simple "I don't know."

It takes courage to tell the truth when the outcome is that you might get into trouble, but you'll only be braver for it. In those every day situations, the ones we typically lied our ways out of as children, standing up for your dignity and telling the truth can only make you stronger. And, honestly, chances are the outcome isn't going to be as heinous as you think.

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