Let me begin by stating that honesty is not one of my values. It really isn’t. The only space that I can be 100% honest is in a relationship. Why do I lie? Because sometimes the best thing to do is lie. Sometimes, I lie to protect people I care about from getting hurt. Sometimes a confidentiality agreement makes me lie. Sometimes I lie to incentivise people. Sometimes I lie to manipulate people. Sometimes I lie to hurt people. I tell them things I know that I don’t mean. Sometimes I lie to make myself feel better.
At this point, you’ve probably judged the hell out of me. But guess what? You are no better. YOU ARE A LIAR TOO! Yes, you. By denying it, you are lying to yourself. Which, by the way, is the worst form of lying.
Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who told me that the most frequent lie we tell in a day are the words “I’m fine.” But that is a lie in itself. Our most frequent lie comes just before the words: “I am fine.”
Our most frequent lie is the question: “How are you?”
Think about it. Picture yourself taking a random stroll on a breezy Saturday afternoon. The only sound that interrupts your thoughts is that of cars as they zoom past you facing the opposite direction. You lift your head from your phone screen and notice an acquaintance right ahead. You walk a bit quicker to meet him. You shake hands and click your fingers. Typical bro style. Simultaneously, you ask him “How are you doing, man?” He probably also asks the same question at the same time. Here comes the moment of truth.
Ask yourself these questions. Do you normally wait for a response after you ask “How are you?” If you don’t hear a response, do you even ask again to find out how he’s doing? Do you really care to know how he’s doing? Or are you just asking to fulfill all righteousness? Sometimes, when people ask me how I am, I ignore them the first time just to see if they’d ask again which shows how much they really care to know. Yes, you guessed it. 99% of the time, they never ask again.
Very often, when asked to state one of our values we mindlessly rush to mention ‘honesty’ as one of them, but is that really true? Only Heaven knows how many times we lie in a day. Very often, we condemn lawyers, politicians, institutions and the likes for their dishonesty and corrupt practices. But we are just like them. The only difference between our corruption and theirs is the scale at which their dishonesty/corruption is done.
Ask yourself this question:
Would I always be honest if whatever I did, nobody would know about it, and I would never get caught?
See, it is easy to teach about honesty and values in the bubble of an air-conditioned classroom filled with like-minded people who shun corruption and dishonesty. But the true test of those values is when you find yourself in a centuries-old system of dishonesty and corruption where values like integrity and honesty are ridiculed, if not persecuted. In such a situation, would you stand your ground, or conform to fit in?
Taking a critical look at society, honesty is also a tool of control used by the dishonest people at the top to ensure conformity.
Picture this. If we were all to lie to Facebook when we fill out our bios, when we click on ads pretending like that’s the stuff we are interested in, Facebook would incur terrible losses from its advertising business. Why? Because people are lying about who they are and what they are interested in. Economists would pull their hair out from its roots if all human behavorial patterns were all lies. They won’t be able to make any predictions or projections. The people at the intelligence agencies would go bananas if all the intel they have turn out to be all lies which make them take actions that only lead them further away from the truth. Our dishonest governments would literally crumble.
Honesty is a key factor which determines not just the quality of our lives, but also the smooth running of society. While honesty is not yet one of my values, I still consider myself an honest man. As counterintuitive as that may sound, it is true. Once I am loyal to a person or an institution, I never lie to them. I can only lie for them. We become hypocrites when we fail to admit to ourselves the fact that we lie, and that very often we actually do need to lie. In the process of living up to some flawed moral ideals, we end up lying to ourselves.
Accept the fact that you lie; I have. Before you judge someone for being dishonest, realize that the guilty should never be the judge. Try to become more intentional about reducing how often you lie.
I hope to arrive at the point where honesty would become one of my values (that is, it would NEVER be compromised). But until then, I’d stay true to the fact that, for now, I lie.