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48. Honesty and Trust

Deep down, we know what honesty is.  It’s being truthful and straightforward, with good intentions. 

Honesty is being truthful and comprehensive in sharing relevant information with others, refusing to intentionally communicate anything we know to be directly or indirectly wrong or misleading, and communicating to correct what we know to be false, when it’s important, with respect and honor for and the best intentions toward whoever we are communicating with.  When working right, honesty is a value that is part of character, which we honor with integrity, as we do with all our deeply held values.

The simplest part of honesty is that we do not intentionally lie or support falsehood.  Lying deliberately provides others with wrong information, which may cause or allow them to muddle up their thinking, or make false conclusions that lead to being, actions or behaviors which can lead us astray and harm us.  We are all us, and it doesn’t serve us to deliberately lead anyone astray.  That’s at best a waste of time, and it typically causes someone or something harm, somehow.  If it harms any, it harms us, eventually.

Do no harm!  Dishonesty causes harm.  If we cannot trust communication, communication breaks down and becomes unreliable.  If we have false information, we are misled.

Dishonesty is very clear when it comes to deliberate lying related to objective facts.  If we know something’s false, like we did not do something, and we say it is true, we did do it, that’s a deliberate lie.  That’s being dishonest.  If we know something is true, (smoking cigarettes is making people sick), and we say it’s false (cigarette smoking is safe) to profit from cigarettes, that’s a deliberate lie.  It’s dishonest.  Society does not function well when people deliberately lie.  People and others suffer harm.

Honesty is also pretty clear when it comes to sharing all of the truth that is relevant to comprehensive communication between people.  If we care for others as part of us and share information with them, we want to truthfully share as much information with them as is necessary to help them understand what they need or want to understand for their purpose.  We respect others as us, so we try to help them by sharing truthfully everything we can that’s relevant to their effort to understand.  It’s just hard to work out, sometimes, how much information others need.

Dishonesty is trickier in communicating to correct falsehood.  If we know something is true (a product makes people sick), and encounter someone who believes falsehood and may suffer harm because of it, (they’re getting ready to buy and use that product), it’s not being respectful if we don’t honestly communicate that information to the other (tell them the product makes people sick), because it allows the other person to continue to use false information, which may lead to actions that cause harm (they buy and use the product and get sick).  It is disrespectful, if not dishonest, to the other by inaction not to correct the falsehood, at least when it can cause them harm.  Intruding to correct falsehood is honest, but tricky.  Often, we are not open to such intrusions, often, because we distrust them and each other.

It’s not important to correct every falsehood, if the consequences are not significant.  For example, if someone is telling a story and says it happened at noon, and we know it happened at 12:07, and that difference does not affect any outcomes or lessons in the story, it’s not important to correct the error.  It just doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t harm or mislead anyone to believe the time was noon, rather than 12:07, so it’s not important to correct the falsehood.

 

Being deliberately misleading is being dishonest.  If we say things that are true, in ways that deliberately mislead others to false conclusions, we are effectively lying.  We are being dishonest and deceitful.  If a politician truthfully states in a splashy way that he increased public subsidies for solar energy by 1000% (because he increased solar subsidies from $.10 to $1 this year) and increased subsidies only 50% for fossil fuels (because he increased subsidies to them from $10 billion to $15 billion), so we’ll vote for him to represent our value of increasing renewable solar electricity and decreasing fossil fuel dependency, he is being misleading and dishonest (he supports oil more than solar, though he implies the opposite).  That deceit is disrespectful and causes harm.

If a corporation presents a mission statement to do social good, and it takes public monies to do little social good, while managing operations and employees brutally to maximize profits for owners, that is being misleading and causing harm, because those public monies could have been better used to do actual social good.  If a political bill is given the name “Clean Water Initiative,” yet what it really does is eliminate laws that prevent dumping poisons in our waters, that is misleading and dishonest.

Being honest is behaving with integrity with regard to truth.  Being honest is, while intending the best possible outcomes for all, treating others with respect by sharing with them, to the best of our ability, what we know is true, relevant and helpful to them, based on where they are in their understanding, development and spiritual unfolding, and what they’re trying to learn or do that causes no harm. 

Without honesty, we cannot trust others.  We cannot trust what others say, do or pretend to be, and we cannot believe information shared or rely on others.  When that happens, society breaks down.  Our knowledge and understanding no longer advance, rather begin to decay.  We lose positive benefits of cooperation.  We can no longer trust in our ability to learn from the experiences and sharing of others.  We develop destructive negative views of others.  Degeneration and negative energy ensue.

Trust is our ability to open, relax and believe that something is OK.  We trust information when we believe it’s true and those conveying it are credible and have good intentions toward us in sharing it.  We trust people if we believe they care about us, have good character, values, integrity and intentions.  We trust situations if we believe they are safe and we can participate in them without suffering harm.  We trust governments and organizations if we believe in their missions and ability to execute them, and that their representatives are competent, honest, of good character, have integrity, and are genuinely trying to execute the missions without conflict.

Many current problems relate to a breakdown of honesty and trust.  We no longer believe information we receive, nor believe in and count on each other, so anxiety rises, dysfunction sets in, we suffer harm, society degenerates, we blame each other, we’re unwilling to engage with each other, our own honesty becomes corrupted, we stop caring about each other, and we self-destruct.  Without honesty and trust, bad feelings and negative energies develop and grow, like anger, resentment, blame, fear, and hate.  Those negative energies and feelings lead to negative outcomes.

Politicians, government employees, corporate leaders, salespeople, religious leaders and others we rely on now lie to us directly, repeatedly, and without refutations or consequences.  The U.S. President lies to us daily, and we allow it, and many still trust him, somehow.  Corporations, organizations and political operatives engage in all kinds of marketing and sales campaigns designed to deliberately mislead and manipulate us into thinking, behaving and doing as they will, which benefits them and often harms us.  We lie to another in romantic relationships to trick the other into sex or satisfaction of other desires.  Our news organizations lie to us and mislead us for purposes other than our own well-being. 

Our abilities to count on each other, believe each other and trust in each other are severely damaged.  We do not believe others are honest, because we experience too much dishonesty.  We create absurdly complex legal documents for our interactions with each other, because we do not trust each other, and that creates a drag on society and economies.  Even those ridiculously detailed and obtuse contracts often don’t mean anything, because those behind them are often willing to violate them and then manipulate the legal systems if the benefits outweigh the costs, which they often do.  We are dishonest and untrustworthy, so we don’t trust each other, or believe each other, or believe in each other. 

The increasing breakdown of honesty and trust in our society harms every social institution and system.  It harms our relationships with each other and our communities, our well-being, and the environment.  It damages everything.  Yet, we allow it.  It is proliferating.  We are bombarded with political speech, advertisements, marketing efforts, news, entertainments and social commentaries dishonestly and intentionally designed to manipulate our being, thinking, behavior and actions, not for our benefits, or for the benefit of society, but for the benefit of those behind the manipulations, often to our detriment.

The values of honesty and trust are essential for social function.  Without them, our social systems and social interactions break down.  We must insist and rely on honesty and trust from all to accomplish things together.  Honesty and trust are truly important.

 

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