Honesty Is a Way of Life

October 28, 2019
If you want to be honest with others, you first must be honest with yourself. If you have a clear idea about what you want and what you don't, you'll be able to avoid emotionally draining situations.

Being honest saves time and keeps relationships healthy. If you’re honest with yourself about your limits and what you think is right, it’s much easier to get along with people and avoid uncomfortable situations. However, being sincere with yourself and others isn’t always easy. Honesty is a way of life and it requires a significant commitment.

According to Confucius, a sincere person who always tells the truth is already on the path to heaven. Although that’s a nice sentiment, most of us tell little white lies because we’re afraid of being rejected or scrutinized.

There are many situations in which you might feel compelled to tell a half-truth. Even though your intentions are good, white lies can lead to negative situations down the road. Being honest (without over-sharing) should be your default mechanism, a way to build a healthier life for yourself and those around you.

“Sincerity may be humble but she can’t be servile.”

-Lord Byron-

A group at a work meeting.

Be honest with yourself

Transparent communication, free of facades, lies, fears, and condescension, brings harmony to your life. Some people brag about how respectful and honest they are when they’re nothing more than experts in the art of hypocrisy. They fake feelings, behaviors, and ideas.

The world is full of people on the crooked path. They think one thing and say another and act in direct opposition to their worldview. Living this way, out of synch with your thoughts and desires, can make you miserable in the long run.

A study from Dr. Stephen Rosenbaum at the University of Southern Denmark makes it clear that honesty must be a societal norm. Sincerity and transparency make relationships easier and help you be successful at work and stay emotionally balanced. It’s the foundation of your well-being and that of the people around you.

As with so many things, living an honest life is easier said than done. Here are some strategies that’ll help get you on the right path.

Start by being honest with yourself

It’s hard to ignore that little voice in your head that reinforces your fears. “If you say that to your boss, they’re going to get mad at you” or “Don’t tell your friend how you feel because they’ll just reject you”. These defense mechanisms build barricades that prevent you from saying and doing what you want. Not only do they make it impossible to be sincere, but they also get in the way of your personal growth.

Being honest with yourself requires an authentic and courageous inner dialogue. You have to be able to ask yourself what you want and what you need and give real answers. Only then will you be able to practice honesty with others.

A woman looking at herself in a small square mirror.

Dishonesty leads to unhappiness

As we said above, being honest saves valuable time and energy. It helps you avoid investing time and effort in people and activities that don’t coincide with your values. When people are authentic with each other, trust comes easily. There’s nothing better than getting advice from someone who speaks from their heart with no ulterior motives.

Half-truths and white lies, on the other hand, soon lead to more lies and deception. They build on each other like a house of cards, and the whole thing can collapse in on itself at any moment. An enormous psychological effort is required to keep up these facades. Expending that energy isn’t useful, logical, or healthy.

Honesty is a courageous and healthy way of life

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, two psychologists who specialize in childhood education, wrote in their book NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (2011) that children lie to their parents much more often than we think. They do it to make their parents happy and to meet their expectations. Children think that if they tell their parents how they really feel, they’ll disappoint them.

Perhaps that’s why humans start lying in the first place. We’re afraid of disappointing other people and not being who they think we are. We don’t want to lose relationships or create distance between us and the people we love. Although that’s very easy to understand, it doesn’t change the truth: inauthenticity betrays who you are.

Being truly honest can be shocking or surprising, but it’s worth it. In the long run, you’ll create a healthier, happier, and more meaningful life for yourself and those around you. Honesty is a way of life that will lead to many positive things. What are you waiting for?

  • Rosenbaum. Mark, Billinger. Stephan (2014) Let’s be honest: A review of experimental evidence of honesty and truth-telling. Journal of Economic Psychology Volume 45, December 2014, Pages 181-196. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joep.2014.10.002