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How honest are you – really? [long post]

Community Veteran
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Registered: 05-04-2007

How honest are you – really? [long post]

(N.B. This post is, perhaps, more like a blog post than a forum post – I suppose it is going to be quite deep for General Chit-Chat. Do bear with me though if you're at all interested in the subject; it only takes a couple of minutes to read.)
Honesty. We've probably all grown up with the mantra that it's the ‘best policy’; instilled in us during our formative years to try to ensure that we become truthful beings who'd never dream of deceptive behaviour. Recently, however, having observed other people's behaviour and heard other people's experiences, I'm starting to wonder how much value there is in the mantra after all – how applicable the notion of being truthful to one another actually is in modern society. I'd therefore like to share my thoughts with the fine upstanding citizens that frequent this forum and, if I may, solicit some other people's thoughts.
I'll begin with my own experiences. As a child I had a very disrupted family life, owing to major problems between my mother and father. My father would tell me that my mother was a liar, and my mother would tell me that my father was a liar. There was this huge gulf between my two parents, but not wanting to lose one of those parents, I had to straddle that gap. I was young, naïve, and to some extent afraid of where my life family was going to end up – which made me gullible. The result was that my father started lying to me… a lot. At first, my gullibility meant that I didn't realise what was happening, with some pretty unsavoury consequences. But slowly my mother pointed out the web of deceit that had surrounded me, and I ceased to believe the things my father told me – things that I now realise were utterly farcical. Unfortunately however, I also started to lose trust in my mother too, owing to actions of hers and things she said which made me feel I could not rely on what she told me either.
There were two results from all of that, which is why I've talked about it above (albeit, believe me, very briefly). The first unfortunate result was that I now find it extremely difficult to trust people. I no longer trust my father, and the trust I have in my mother is also significantly diminished. My parents' lies hurt me massively when I was a child, and as those who know me to some kind of personal extent will know, I've still not managed to fix my life since then. I'm therefore utterly determined to never fall in to the trap of being emotionally hurt by lies again, which I achieve by, quite simply, taking everything anyone says with a pinch of salt, until I know them well enough to be close enough to certain that they are actually truthful.
The other result is that I decided I would try and live my life being as absolutely honest as possible, from the smallest things to the biggest. I wanted to avoid going anywhere near the world of blatant dishonesty or even just half-truths; anywhere near the world that'd messed up my life those years ago.
There appears, however, to be a problem: today's society. It's been increasingly dawning on me lately that modern society, at least in England, is so dependent on lying that 1. it's near enough impossible to avoid being on the receiving end, and 2. one is at a disadvantage if one doesn't partake of some of it too. The lies of which one ends up at the receiving end might only be small – for example, making up an excuse to visit someone later than they've suggested – but they're still lies all the same. The fact that any particular person is willing to make up such a lie immediately makes me concerned about that person, because I think ‘Ok, that person is obviously willing to lie – so where do they draw the line?’. I'd love to live a life where I could know that everything people tell me is true, but it seems impossible. Hypocritically, I even caught myself making a small lie a couple or few weeks ago, to make things a bit more convenient for myself, which I was very annoyed about when reflecting upon what I'd done afterwards. Just because everyone else does it doesn't make it right…
…or does it? I'd like to think it doesn't, but I'm not so sure any more. Perhaps the most frustrating example of this society's reliance on dishonesty came from something a friend of mine told me about when she tried to get a job. She was asked in an interview about her tennis playing, and she said that she enjoyed it but wasn't very good; an appraisal which, knowing her personality, I expect is accurate (I've never seen her play tennis!). She failed the interview. Why? Because she hadn't sold herself enough. The interviewer wanted to hear my friend – who, like me, is very honest – say that she was better than she really was. Which really appalled me: my friend's honesty had cost her a job… and ironically, someone who lied about his skills got it instead (he was asked if he knew how to do something; he said he did but it was subsequently found he didn't). I can't help but therefore feel that honest, frank, straight-talking people like me are actually at a disadvantage in this culture; we have become so used to lying to get what we want that when someone like me or my friend who makes a point of not lying comes along, we end up being at odds with the whole ‘system’.
So… well, I'd be interested in hearing what other people think about the whole idea of honesty. Is it still an important part of society? Is it still a valued trait in people? Do people still assume that everyone else is honest despite the fact there's so much dishonesty surrounding us? Is anyone troubled by that surrounding dishonesty? And perhaps most importantly: how honest are you – really? (You don't have to answer that one – I offer it more for self reflection. If anyone wants to answer it though then be my guest.)
19 REPLIES
scootie
Grafter
Posts: 4,799
Registered: 03-11-2007

Re: How honest are you – really? [long post]

Am both if you can be  Undecided ,
Am of the nature if i think some ones honest with me i give them the same back, but if i sniff dis honesty from some one expect it back twice as bad (doggie dog world out there),
i would like to live by the old saying ( do to people as you wish to be done by) and mostly i do and get rewarded in return, but if you do that to certain people in this world there going to hand your arse to you on a plate
pierre_pierre
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Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: How honest are you – really? [long post]

Frank Bruno was on the local media Yesterday talking about a time of his life when he got sectioned after a divorce mucked him up, very honest about it see http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/essex/hi/people_and_places/newsid_8341000/8341180.stm
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Re: How honest are you – really? [long post]

You have touched on a subject which has always been of great concern to me at a personal level.
My background is very different to yours - I had wonderful, honest parents and I count myself very, very lucky.
I absolutely hate to be lied to and actually feel abused when someone does this.
The problem as I see it is that it actually causes confusion in your mind and you then have to waste time and effort cogitating about the validity of what they have told you. Sometimes there are grains of truth among the lies but why
should one have to discern them?
The story about your friend is, sadly a sign of the times. In my working life my own honesty was not helpful to me either, so she is not on her own. The only thing is (and this is important) - she has retained her self-respect and integrity and that is absolutely priceless IMO. Sometimes what goes round, comes around, as the saying goes and there might be a better opportunity later or the employers will learn by the experience and have more sense in the future.  It seems to me that the whole world today is turning on lies and spin and I despair sometimes.
I can't go into details but only yesterday afternoon I was in a situation where, due to helping a friend, I had to sit and listen to such a load of lies and rubbish from a man. The only saving grace was that they were obviously lies but it has left my friend in a very distressed state and now I find that I am having to try to console her.
Now that I am a lot older (and hopefully wiser) I am a bit more 'laissez faire' about it  and don't expect to be told the truth all of the time.  I let a lot of things pass me by as I haven't got the inclination, energy or brain power to dissect the truth from the rest.
I would say don't give up - lying to some degree is part and parcel of life and is just something we have to deal with as it is actually impossible to be 100% truthful at all times.
pierre_pierre
Grafter
Posts: 19,757
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: How honest are you – really? [long post]

A few old quotes
Simon Cameron 1799-1889
Quote
An honest politician is one who, when bought, will stay bought

Charles de Gualle 1890-1970
Quote
Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken for his word

Nikita Khruschev 1894-1971
Quote
Politician are the same all over.  They promise to build a bridge even when there is no river

edit fixed last quote
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Re: How honest are you – really? [long post]

I forgot to mention that my pal (who can be relied upon to say it as it is and who I very much respect and try to emulate) always says that the habitual liar needs one characteristic -  a good memory!
When you think about it blatant liars are probably to be pitied as they really have only one agenda - themselves!
This, of course, doesn't make them good friends. 
Due to my own honesty and outspokenness I got into hot water earlier this year but now things are better so not sure whether it was good or bad.  Huh
Community Veteran
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Re: How honest are you – really? [long post]

Re your friend's answer about the tennis: she did give the wrong answer. What she should have done is turned it around to her advantage - "I could say I'm very good, but I think it's more important to be honest; I play well enough to enjoy playing".
Unless of course she was after a job in sales when she should have lied like hell!
jelv (a.k.a Spoon Whittler)
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James
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Registered: 04-04-2007

Re: How honest are you – really? [long post]

The question for me would be, if she was actually good at tennis, would she have got the job?
jmd
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Re: How honest are you – really? [long post]

I had very honest parents, who believed that I should be honest too.................as a Christian I believe that I should be honest,  occasionally  though like everyone I admit that I lapse.
  We are not perfect beings.
My desire to be honest with people caused problems at work............ I think I can safely say that due to that trait I never got full promotion [I could act up in higher grade but was not suitable for it!] because I would say what I thought to colleagues and clients alike.
  As people may be aware I worked in a JobCentre, and I could not tell someone for example to go on a course that would "guarantee" them a job at end of it because that would be lying.  I could tell them that there was a strong possibility it would lead into full time employment if they did well on it though.
As someone else has said - we should do unto others what we want doing to ourselves.  I appreciate honesty in others.
I had a electrician call on Tuesday to give me a quote for the simple job of fixing my outside security light - he said he would ring me that evening or yesterday morning to say when he could come.  He has not rung.  I left a message on his phone yesterday afternoon.  He has still not rung.  If the job is too small or he is too busy to do it - why did he not just say so?  That is one form of dishonesty to me.  Perhaps not so direct as outright lying but still annoying.
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Re: How honest are you – really? [long post]

This is a very difficult issue which there is no answer to !
Some people who Lie actually believe what they are saying is the truth ! Other people who Lie are totally without feeling and are unable to appreciate the pain that their lie will cause.
The more sensitive and understanding a person is the less they are likely to lie because they know the pain or problems they will cause to others !
Do not drop your present standards, if you do then it's clear because of the type of person you are it will cause you as much pain as the person you lied to !
We cannot alter or forget the past but we can take steps to ensure we are not trapped by it !
johpal
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Re: How honest are you – really? [long post]

I hear lies at work all the time. The excuses for patients not arriving on time (or not at all) seem to become increasingly bizarre. Usually they ring a little while after the appointment time (30 minutes, or so), claiming they haven't received a letter and wanting a new appointment. The fact we can see on our computer screens that they have a long history of repeating the same claim (yes, we do check the address details; yes, we do try to contact them 48 hrs in advance by telephone as a reminder). It is refreshing when somebody admits they just plain, forgot!.
Sometimes,  I almost sicken myself with the emollient lies I have to use to avoid conflict; in my line of work, the "customer" is rarely right, but I cannot concede control of a potentially dangerous situation.
I once recieved a reference for a job applicant: "She is as diligent as she is honest". The fact she was lazy and a thief not withstanding, the reference was honest!
Moderator
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Re: How honest are you – really? [long post]

I also had good parents who brought me up to be good and honest.
I do consider myself to be a trustworthy person but believe that is ultimately for others to judge.
I have said many times that I am too honest for my own good and see others getting better breaks in life by being, shall we say 'frugal with the truth'.
This does annoy me but as others have said I have my self respect intact and the feeling that I made the right decision.
These days it seems to be a case of "well if I don't take advantage of the situation someone else will". Like claiming benefits you are not entitled to with the "everybody else is doing it" attitude.
The dishonesty of politicians is acceptable as a condition of the job and there is always the 'white lie' situation where the truth might cause hurt or worse.
I was given the keys and alarm codes to the company I work for on the basis of the company's trust in me which I appreciate.
Also in my job I have access to and am entrusted with all information on the company, a position many here find themselves in in my kind of job.
I try to be as honest as I can in the hope that people appreciate this and afford me the same in return.

Quote from: gleneagles
The more sensitive and understanding a person is the less they are likely to lie because they know the pain or problems they will cause to others !

Absolutely agree
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Re: How honest are you – really? [long post]

Thanks for all the replies – it's very interesting to read other people's attitudes on the matter. If I weren't careful I could probably spend all day replying to what's been said here, so I'll just pick out a few things to respond to…
Quote from: jelv
Re your friend's answer about the tennis: she did give the wrong answer. What she should have done is turned it around to her advantage - "I could say I'm very good, but I think it's more important to be honest; I play well enough to enjoy playing".

But she didn't realise at the time that she had to give a dishonest answer – she was asked a question, and she answered it in the manner that occurred to her to do so. Obviously, the technique you mention might be something she considers in future (indeed, I suggested something vaguely similar), but I do feel it should never be necessary really.
Quote from: Jameseh
The question for me would be, if she was actually good at tennis, would she have got the job?

Sorry, forgot to make that very clear: her tennis abilities had no bearing on the job itself. It was just an office job that had nothing to do with sport; the tennis thing just arose from the interviewer asking her about her hobbies.
Quote from: poppy
You have touched on a subject which has always been of great concern to me at a personal level.
[…]
I absolutely hate to be lied to and actually feel abused when someone does this.
The problem as I see it is that it actually causes confusion in your mind and you then have to waste time and effort cogitating about the validity of what they have told you. Sometimes there are grains of truth among the lies but why should one have to discern them?
[…]
It seems to me that the whole world today is turning on lies and spin and I despair sometimes.

It's a relief to find there's someone else who's so disenchanted by this particular aspect of society. I can particularly relate to the third statement I quoted there… it rather nicely sums up the attitude I have to take with my father, although I have little communication with him these days. Clearly, it would be silly to assume that every word he speaks is a lie – but how do I know which words are and which words aren't? Trying to separate the two is a frustrating process, and one which I can never be certain yields an accurate answer. As you say: why should it be necessary? And it's a similar, albeit less severe, problem with other people whom I notice telling porkies. If they seem happy to deceive other people, I can't help but start wondering if they're deceiving me too. Roll eyes
(Also, re. your comment about having a good memory – my father does have a habit of recording everything in a diary and, importantly, saving those diaries year after year…)
Quote from: johpal
I hear lies at work all the time. The excuses for patients not arriving on time (or not at all) seem to become increasingly bizarre. Usually they ring a little while after the appointment time (30 minutes, or so), claiming they haven't received a letter and wanting a new appointment.

That's exactly the sort of silly little lie that even ‘normal’ non-pathological liars seem to be too happy to brandish these days. I see so many examples of this sort of thing – although rather annoyingly I can't think of any right now – and it really shows how many people are willing to execute a lie in order to gain themselves a convenience (or perhaps avoid a small telling-off).
Quote from: gleneagles
Some people who Lie actually believe what they are saying is the truth !
[…]
Do not drop your present standards, if you do then it's clear because of the type of person you are it will cause you as much pain as the person you lied to !

Subsequent correspondance with my father suggests that your first statement, frustratingly, is the case with him. Which makes it completely impossible to ever try and reason with him. Sad As for the second statement… I hope not to. That's why I was so annoyed with myself for allowing myself to get away with a little lie along the lines of the ones discussed with johpal above. Why I did it, I'm not sure; I think it was a case of me having a bad day and thinking ‘oh why make things more difficult for myself when anyone else would just tell a small fib’, and I succumbed. But afterwards I immediately realised that that might start destroying the integrity that's been mentioned more than once in this thread, and I don't want that. ‘Honesty‘ means not lying at all, plain and simple, and that's the standard I need to stick to. It's so tempting not to though, when you see everyone else making life easy for themselves by disregarding their obligations to be truthful.
Quote from: Strat
I try to be as honest as I can in the hope that people appreciate this and afford me the same in return.

Exactly. Smiley
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Re: How honest are you – really? [long post]

My aforementioned friend, whose bluntness is really something to behold would, I believe be completely open about behaviour such as this. Without being stroppy or seeming critical, she would quietly say what she feels and wait patiently for a satisfactory reply and/or discussion. I have seen her do this with a car salesman who was treating her as if she was ga-ga because of her age - he was quickly put in his place and looked very uncomfortable.
It's a difficult strategy to adopt and doesn't make one popular but if you are the type of person who can do this, it opens up the opportunity to say that no, treatment like this is not acceptable and also disrespectful.
However bad things are I do hope that at some point understanding can be reached and the situation improved.
Simon_M
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Re: How honest are you – really? [long post]

Your friend should ask herself - would she have been happy working in that firm if she had got the job? If the interviewer represented the company ethos, she would have found herself having to project a false 'positive' image of both herself & the company.
It's a fine divide between being positive & telling lies. Being positive is a good thing, but it can be used as a euphemism for lying. Having to pretend all day that you are super positive when you are not is mentally exhausting.
She may have had a lucky escape!