While there are a great many moral systems, generally speaking, honesty is considered moral and dishonesty is considered immoral. There are several exceptions, such as egoistic hedonism, which values honesty only insofar as it improves ones own sense of pleasure, and moral nihilism, which denies the existence of objective morality outright. Honesty may also be challenged in various social systems with ideological stakes in self-preservation (many religious and national formations might be so characterized, but so too might be many family structures, and other small social collectives). In these cases honesty is frequently encouraged publicly, but may be retroactively forbidden and punished in an ex post facto manner if those invested in preserving the system perceive it as a threat. Depending on the social system, these breaches might be characterized as heresy, treason, or impoliteness. So ultimately, there are a great number of opinions about honesty. Even in moral systems which approve in general of honesty over dishonesty, some people think there are situations in which dishonesty may be preferable. Others would not define preferable behaviors as dishonest by reasoning that they are not intended to deceive others for personal gain, but the intent is more noble in character, for example sparing people of opinions that will upset them. Rather than dishonesty, that behavior is often viewed as self sacrifice - giving up one's voice for the happiness of others. But it can hardly be a universal approach to either determining honesty or morality. In many circumstances, withholding one's opinions can legitimately be viewed as cowardice, and a betrayal of those who will be hurt, discriminated against, or unfairly judged due to false beliefs left unchallenged. For this reason, many people insist that an objective approach to the truth, rather than an ideological or idealistic approach, is a necessary component of honesty.
"I was honest once, and it felt really good. If you're not honest, you just look bad," says Brittani, age 6.
"Honesty is important because people have to trust you to be a friend," says Natalie, 9. "You should be honest so people will always believe in you, no matter what," adds Cecile, 8.
A wise biblical proverb says, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches" (Proverbs 22:1). Your name and reputation are all you have. Once they're gone, you're broke. Wise people resist the short-term gain of deceit because they know honesty pays big dividends in the long run.
"You should be honest because if you aren't, the guilt will tear you up inside," says Mallorie, 12. "You can tell if someone is honest because they are happier," adds Scott, 11.
Peace of mind is one of honesty's many dividends, and it usually shows on a person's face. If someone is lying, "their face is kind of looking weird," says Emily, 6.
Actually, the eyes tell the story, says Cody, 12: "If you look straight into someone's eyes, you can see the word 'liar' or 'honest person.'"
I've never seen these words in people's eyes, Cody, but it's often the case that a shifty-eyed person is up to no good. At least, that's the way it is in western movies when the camera gets a close-up of the guys wearing the black hats.
"Sometimes when you lie, people ask questions about the lie, and then you have to lie again," says Ashley, 8. You've heard of chain-smoking? Here, we have "chain-lying." Just as the chain-smoker lights one cigarette on another, the chain-liar tells one lie to cover another. The mental energy alone to remember all the lies takes its toll.
"Honesty is telling the whole truth, even if it gets you into trouble," says Matthew, 11. Jesus didn't promise us a rose garden in this world. He said, "In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Have you ever had a dishonest boss who hinted that if you told the truth about something, your job would be in jeopardy? If you're determined to be honest, get ready for tests.
"An honest person has one of the most important virtues," says Matthew, 12.
In "The Book of Virtues," author William Bennett defines honesty as "real, genuine, authentic and bona fide. To be dishonest is to be partly feigned, forged, fake or fictitious. Honesty expresses both self-respect and respect for others. Dishonesty fully respects neither oneself nor others. Honesty imbues lives with openness, reliability and candor; it expresses a disposition to live in the light."
"You should be honest because it is good, and God likes it," says Colby, 7. Thank you, Colby, for your brevity and candor. In the Bible, honesty is not an abstract concept. It begins by being honest with God. He created us to live in an open, honest relationship with him. Remember what Adam and Eve did when they heard God walking in the garden after they sinned? They hid.
"You should be an honest person always to God and Jesus," says Frances, 8.
If you hide from God, you'll be exposed. Your mask will fall, and your web of deceit will come undone.
Point to ponder: Determine to live honestly and openly before God and people.
Scripture to remember: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).
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