Honesty is dead.  Perhaps it left with Honest Abe or George Washington’s confession about the cherry tree, but somewhere along the way, we chopped it down and have been reluctant to bring it back.   Generally, we have to pit it against something else to give it relative importance so we can even understand it all.   Listening to a friend spin an incredible story which he deliberately tells with gusto and then emphasizes that it’s all the “honest to God truth,” you’re left wondering what to believe.  How could an honest-to-God story require such a leap of faith?

Unfortunately, like charity, honesty begins at home.  It begins with you and the way you talk to yourself.  One writer said, “Our lives improve only when we take chances–and the first and the most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.”  If you stand in front of a mirror each morning and start talking to yourself as though you don’t matter or have no possibilities, before long you’ll begin to believe your own lies.  You’ll begin to actually live your life as if nothing is possible for you.  That would be dishonest when you think about it since the One who created you is always ready to come back to you at a moment’s notice and help you reinvent your story.  In fact, He would prefer that you see yourself in the beautiful light that He has cast for you.  However you frame that, it’s all about being honest.

The Bible often notes honesty in terms of words we say to ourselves and others.  Job 6:24-25 says, ” Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong.  How painful are honest words!”    1 Peter 3:10 makes it even stronger by saying, “If you love life and want to live a good, long time, Then be careful what you say.  Don’t tell lies or spread gossip or talk about improper things.  Walk away from the evil things in the world–just leave them behind, and do what is right.”  And finally, Ephesians 4: 25, says, “So put away your lies and speak the truth to one another because we are all part of one another.”

Honesty then isn’t a simple matter.  It has ripple effects and anyone who has ever been a recipient or a participant in lies knows that those ripples can wash over your life time and time again.  Hard as this concept is, we know that it has been responsible for much of the sadness that goes on in the world.

My friend, Lisa,  introduced me to Charlotte S. Huck’s book called “Toads and Diamonds.”  In the story, a young woman is rewarded for being kind to an old lady.  Every time she speaks diamonds and roses fall from her lips.  As any good fairy tale goes, the wicked step sister also wants this blessing and goes in search of the old lady.  Since she’s wicked of course, she’s cursed with toads and snakes to fall from her lips.  In both cases, the blessing or the curse will only last as long as there is a need.  The interesting part of this tale is that it offers a ring of truth.  Perhaps diamonds and roses don’t fall from our lips when we’re honest and kind, but the rewards are there just the same.  Conversely, any amount of dishonest, negative, and unkind thought or speech, leaves us with a warped sense of life and a rather creepy desire to go crawl under a rock.  It’s up to us to decide how long we “need” those things in our lives.

With the writer of Ephesians 5, I say “Be careful how you live; be mindful of your steps.”  With that let’s strive to be more honest with ourselves, no need to swallow toads today, and be kinder to others.   Everyone can benefit from the brilliant and uplifting things you say, the encouraging words, the loving roses of kindness.  Honesty used to be considered the best policy and, I’d like to see us renew that policy and notarize it with love.  After all, that may be the only way we can actually be “honest to God” any time we speak.

  1. Mark says:

    So thought-provoking Karen (honestly!); thank you.

    I believe honesty springs from an intention not to harm oneself or others. And it relies on a mind that has patience, that isn’t quick to react based on self-preservation or self-centeredness. A mind that understands more than what it “sees” than through its own narrow reflecting lens and applies skillful means to manifest intentions.

    Truly caring, merged with diligence, is, I believe, what is being referred to in Ephesians 5, these are the ingredients of the “forumla” that sets on one the path where being dishonest becomes a discomfort, perhaps even an irritant.

    And yes, as the Dalai Lama says over and over . . . it is wonderful to aspire to change the world, but work on that with which you have control — yourself. When honesty abides in the mind, everything the mind perceives at that time is influenced by it.

    OK, stopping finger now . . .

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