Honesty truly makes life simpler

Published in the Courier Mail 24 September 2008

IF YOU did it in the past week, then you’re in good company. Several high-profile Australians appear to have been caught out doing it in recent times.

I’m talking about lying; telling a fib, a little white lie, fudging the truth. 

The list of euphemisms we use to describe this practice can sometimes seem endless and the practice of such can seem widespread.

In fact, it is almost expected some professions will indulge in some stretching of the truth.

Dishonesty is a practice that most people would agree is less than desirable – particularly when we are the victims. No one wants to be on the receiving end of dishonesty and most of us would still subscribe to the adage that honesty is the best policy.

Honesty makes for a much simpler life – with much less stress. If you always tell the truth, you never have to worry about what version of events you told the person you will see soon. You never have to keep several stories straight. You never have to do the mental gymnastics that would be required if you were trying to cover up certain events with certain people.

That’s reason enough to live truthful lives, really. Considering the busy lives we lead, who wants to be investing the emotional and mental energy needed to cover up dishonesty?

It’s even becoming increasingly apparent that honesty also makes good business sense. After all, reputation matters.

This is increasingly the case in a wireless and connected world. If you put the name of a potential business partner or employee into Google, you can soon discover whether there are questionable aspects of their reputation of which you need to be wary.

Richard M. White, in his book The Entrepreneur’s Manual, demonstrated through a survey of venture capitalists that the single most important characteristic that a serial entrepreneur needs to possess is honesty.

With such easy and broad transfer of information now available by way of the internet, those who wish to stay in business, and continue building successful ventures, must be honest.

They must earn and maintain trustworthiness or people will stop doing business with them.

In a world that often celebrates charisma over character and fame over fortitude, we are still much more likely to do business with someone we can trust. 

We find it easier to leave our money and futures with those who are honest in all things. As Albert Einstein said: “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with the important matters.”

In fact, without honesty, societies and communities fragment and disintegrate. And, while each of us may feel that our situation is the exception, each of us needs to be a part of building and strengthening the social cohesion.

Individual actions make up the bigger whole. George Washington had it right when he said: “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”

It’s an enviable title indeed and one we can all recommit ourselves to.

Ruth Limkin is a Brisbane pastor and author