Honesty is one of the great virtues. Living an honest life often takes effort. Honesty is not only demonstrated by our words, honesty is all so exemplified in our thoughts and actions. Not only must we not lie to others with our words, but we also must be honest in our actions by doing what we say we are going to do. With the many demands on our time, the desire to please others it is easy to say yes when we should have said no. To agree to things, we do not truly agree with. Making sure that our words, actions and thoughts are aligned is not as simple as it may at first seem.
Often when we lie, big or small, it seems like the best option at the time. In the short term we can reason that we are avoiding hurting another or ourselves with the truth. In fact in our culture white lies, considered to be small mistruths of no consequence, are accepted and even encouraged in some circumstances. However the truth of the matter is that nothing is without consequence. In the short term dishonesty can be tempting. In some cases lies allow us to avoid embarrassment or punishment in the moment. By lying to ourselves or others we can avoid owning up to our own mistakes and flaws. It can seem that by lying about these we can help ourselves to look better in the eyes of others or more worthy of their respect. Regardless of the motivation lying for any of these reasons will only produce short-term benefits at best. While in the short-term being dishonest may seem easier than telling the truth, the long term consequences can be severe resulting in the loss of trust, loss of respect, more severe punishment, embarrassment, pain and suffering. Not to mention the stress of maintaining the lie in the meantime. The great majority of the time the discomfort of being truthful from the start pales in comparison to the challenges that we will face in the future as a result of the lie.
Another challenge to living an honest life is that lying is addictive. Lies often build one upon the other to keep up the charade. The complexity and duplicity created by one lie grows and grows until the stress in all consuming and it is almost impossible to maintain the alternate reality that has been created. Each subsequent lie comes easier and easier, until it reaches the point where we do not even have to think about lying, it just happens. Lying has become a habit. Just as lying can be a habit so can honesty. Each time we choose honesty over a lie we are programming our consciousness and installing a new mode of operation. The more often we make a positive choice to be honest, the quicker honesty becomes our new behavioral habit. Once honesty becomes a habit, honesty becomes our default mode of operation. The benefits of living an honest lifestyle include peace of mind, trusting relationships, improved intimate relationships, better health and well being, and positive impacts for society as a whole. Our stress levels decrease which positively affects serotonin levels, cortisol levels and blood pressure. Overall we feel better when we are consistently practicing honesty in our lives. By choosing to live an honest life style you are choosing to develop the characteristic honesty in your life. The following tips will help you to develop honesty as a healthy habit.
When you live a life of honesty you must become aware that there are multiple levels of truth to any topic. Your truth today may not be your truth tomorrow. What you perceived to be a truth, may not be what someone else perceives as truth. To walk the path of honesty one must understand this, respect the perspectives of others, and accept that truth is fluid based upon your perspective and the degree to which you have access to the facts. To live an honest life style means that you must be willing to let go of your need to be right and the belief that you know all of the facts in any situation. The truth is not right or wrong it is simply your perception of what is real. In any situation we can only see the tip of the ice berg, the bulk of the facts are not known and are not visible to the majority of the world.
The person we lie to the most is often ourselves. Make a commitment to be honest with yourself, to regularly make time for self-examination, is important. This does not mean making an appointment to mentally beat yourself up. That is not self-honesty. Make a regular appointment with yourself to look at yourself in the mirror. Love and appreciate the great things about yourself, honor what you do well. Also own your flaws and identify areas you could improve. Be honest with yourself about the stories you tell to your subconscious. Hold yourself accountable to tell yourself the truth about your behaviors, your thoughts, your motivations and your actions. If you can't be honest with yourself, you will not be able to be honest with others.
Commit to living a life where you demonstrate honesty through goodness of character, integrity and morality. If it is something you would be embarrassed to tell another person about, it probably isn't something you should be doing. Honor your commitments. Follow through and do what you say you're going to do, even with the little things. See your commitments through to the end. Live a life of good moral character by being a role model for others. That doesn't mean to be a saint, just be human. A human living the best life you can, owning your successes and failures.
Before speaking or taking action, consider these three things: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it useful? If the answer to any one of these three is to remain silent. As the saying goes, if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. All virtues must be balanced. Being blatantly honest at the expense of causing harm only causes pain. Honesty without compassion can result not only in a negative outcome but also has a negative karmic impact. Do not be honest just for the sake of being honest. Speak what is of value. If the words are not kind, are not true and/or are not useful, they do not need to be spoken.
While a little white lie may appear to be the best choice in the short-term, before you speak consider the long-term consequences. Is this a lie that is going to need to be maintained? Does the lie have the potential of developing into a life of its own? In exercising compassion consider will lying now hurt the person less in the future or more? Why are you considering lying and for whose benefit? Determine for yourself if telling an untruth is worth the consequence. Are the potential long-term consequences worth this short-term fix?
As you live a life of honesty and truth you will find life becomes simpler and less complex. The benefits of this lifestyle include closer friendships with higher quality friends, improved communication, and an improved reputation as someone who is trustworthy consistently acting with honor and integrity. You will gain the respect of others and you will become more confident in yourself as you live a more authentic life. The lower stress levels associated with living honestly lead to better physical and emotional health. When you master honesty you are able to perceive things very clearly without delusions. Your clearly interpret what is happening around you becomes sharper and more focused. As you develop the habit of honesty you will see your circumstances begin to improve. You will begin to experience freedom from the limitations the habit of dishonesty had once created in your life.