I believe that honesty is the best policy.
It’s a saying I learned as a child-most of us do. We hear it from our parents and teachers, read it in books and on blackboards. We’re told stories of George Washington and the cherry tree. Yet, almost as soon as we learn that saying, it seemed that it isn’t always true. Sometimes, it’s ok to tell “a little white lie.” To say “that dress looks nice on you” when it doesn’t, to spare someone’s feelings. Daddy whispers “don’t tell Mommy how much this cost-it will be our little secret.” We learn it’s pretty easy to lie, or at least bend the truth a little.
I recently lost my very best friend, because he lied to me. Not just once or twice, but, I discovered, many times over the course of several years. Mostly it was just “little” lies-no harm done, it would seem. But after a while, I began to wonder-what else is he lying about? And why is he lying to me? Doesn’t he trust me with the truth? I realized that I was analyzing everything he told me. Is he telling me the truth now? Or is this another lie? When he says he cares about me, does he mean it, or is he just saying that? When I confronted him, he said he was sorry, he knew it was wrong, he never wanted to hurt me, it would never happen again etc. etc. But the damage was done. I thought, does he really mean it? Or is he lying about this, too? I just didn’t know anymore. I couldn’t trust him.
Eventually our relationship of many years was over. I couldn’t be friends with someone I didn’t trust. Trust, I discovered, is a very fragile thing. It doesn’t mend easily. Without trust, there cannot be a healthy relationship-be it friendship, a marriage, or a business partnership. And without honesty, there is no trust.
Even as I realized how much I didn’t like being lied to, I realized something else about myself-I do it too. I tell friends who invite me out “Oh darn, I have to work,” when the real truth is, I just don’t feel like going. I claim to have been caught in construction traffic when I’m late for an appointment, when really, I just overslept. Even while I condemned one person for lying, I was doing it myself. And I don’t like it in myself anymore then I liked it in him. So I have made a pact with myself. I will tell the truth. If I catch myself in one of those “automatic” little white lies, I will correct it. I will remember how much it hurt me to be lied to, and I vow I will not treat anyone else that way. I will remember, and I will always believe: honesty is the best policy.
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