The Twelve & Twelve says, “It’s the perverse wish to hide a bad motive underneath a good one.” It further states, “This subtle and elusive kind of self-righteousness underlies the smallest act or thought.” And, As Bill Sees It says, “The deception of others is almost always rooted in the deception of ourselves.” Finally, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous dates, “Honesty, along with open-mindedness and willingness, are the essentials of recovery.” How honest are you?
In a recent seminar I facilitated, I asked a group of forty people to discuss their views on honesty. Incorporating the example of the three candidates and how they handled the controversial political issue, the responses, from both the men and the women, were astounding. Their perspective on honesty took into account several factors. I was surprised.
- Whether the seminar participant, themselves, had engaged in the behavior in question
- Whether the person who engaged in the allegedly dishonest behavior was a friend or family member
- Whether the activity involved someone they liked
- Whether the person said what they wanted to hear, even if their actions weren’t congruent
Here are some of the comments they made:
“I can’t believe he told the truth. He committed political suicide… I wouldn’t do it.”
“He lied for the greater good. It’s okay then.”
“He did the right thing because he wants to win. You have to lie to win.”
“Honesty is when I don’t lie, even if I don’t exactly tell the truth.”
“He had the courage to tell the truth. Wow that was pretty incredible.”
“He should have lied to get the votes.”
Then they continued to share more broadly about the topic.
“Honesty means not taking what’s not mine,… It doesn’t matter whether it’s sleeping with someone else’s husband or boyfriend, taking drugs from their medicine cabinet, or stealing supplies from work.”
“Honesty is not getting caught.”
“It’s okay to cheat on my taxes, I deserve it.”
“It’s telling the truth about my feelings, including when I hurt, even if I run the risk of being disliked.”
“It’s being more honest then dishonest.”
“It’s admitting when I’m wrong, even when I’m judged.”
“It’s being true to me,… it’s having the courage to not live a lie.”
So why are we not honest? Because it’s easy, it’s safe, often not much thought is required, our role models do it, we can easily justify the seemingly small and unimportant things, it’s what we are accustomed to doing, and we are afraid not to.