Honesty and Deception

Nearly everyone thinks honesty is a virtue, myself included. Frankly it simply feels good to be honest. Saying what you truly think and expressing your thoughts openly is often liberating when in truth society is such that being truly open and honest is often deeply anti-social behavior.

I’ve told plenty of lies. Most I’d like to think were for the sake of discretion, but some, the bad kind, calculated to gain advantage for me, quite possibly at someone else’s loss. Some, worse by my accounting, simply made out of fear. On the whole though I try to be honest because I want to be a virtuous person and because as I said, generally it feels good to say what you think.

One of the reasons I decided to throw in the work a day towel is it was the part of my life where lies were still common. Too often I’d find that people were two faced, deceptive, and downright dishonest; often simply for their own pride or perceived advantage as they fight for a bigger share of someone else’s pie. Most companies want to have honesty, generally it’s very good for getting business done, but often the very nature of work and business create strong incentives for dishonesty and disincentives for honesty.

By working for myself, and by having minimal expenses I am to a degree free to be more honest and more open. That doesn’t mean I’m going to throw fireballs out there or make a lot of trouble, I still believe in discretion as much as honesty, but where I can speak truth without doing anyone I care about harm, I’ll do that.

I’d be a hypocrite to tell you not to lie. And despite honesty being a virtue, on balance I think sometimes lying is the right course of action. What I do think might be possible is for all of us to try and give less incentive for others to be dishonest. Try to appreciate honesty even when we don’t like it and don’t punish candor. Don’t put people into situations they must lie to resolve successfully. Think about the options others have and leave a path open for an honest approach to be a good outcome. Of course, that also means not rewarding dishonesty, and in some cases punishing it but you have to be careful because avoiding consequence is itself often a motivation to lie. If we can try to remove the need to lie, then perhaps honesty could be a virtue without so many exceptions.

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