By Catie Gosselin
We are taught as children that honesty is always the best choice. If you break a lamp while playing Frisbee in the house, you admit it. That’s that. As we get older, things get a little fuzzy, though. Little nuances hidden agendas and temperaments come into play.
I used to date a man, for example, who prided himself on his “honesty”. His version of honesty, however, was to take every possible opportunity to insult and belittle me. When I would question why he could possibly feel it was acceptable to treat another human being that way, his pat answer always was “I’m just being honest”.
With hindsight, I can see that this honesty was really maliciousness and power games cloaked as something admirable. Disrespect is disrepect, no matter how it is dressed up. His intention was never being honest because it was the ethical thing to do.
How many times has a friend asked your opinion on something, and your answer is tempered with how you think she will react? For example, when faced with the question “what do you think of my new significant other,” do you answer that you feel nothing but revulsion, or do you tell her what you think she wants to hear? Your intention is to spare her feelings, but in the process you are squashing your own. Is this honesty or dishonesty?
You are asked if you think you can handle a new project at work. You are already overloaded, but need a career boost. Do you jump at the chance to grab the project, or let your boss know you are already a week behind on your deadlines? This is honesty with an agenda.
Contrary to the lessons of childhood, honesty is not always a clear-cut ethical decision. Am I advocating mass lies? Hardly. Take a minute and look at how you are responding. Is it honesty, or honesty with baggage? When you can clearly see your motivation it is easier to determine if honesty is the best policy.
All the best,