Honesty and Character
Honesty is crucial to good character. Why is it so important? Because you can’t really grow your character without being honest with yourself. We are creatures of economy. We strive to maximize our pleasures and minimize our discomforts. Unfortunately, forging decent character is, by nature, arduous and often unpleasant. So, you have to have the heart for it. Being honest with yourself is never easy.
Being honest enough with yourself is hard enough. But you also can’t grow in character if you’re dishonest with others. In many ways, decent people are easy to manipulate. You can use their conscientiousness against them. Good folks want to believe the best about you. And they tend to assume others are just like them. So, you can manipulate by lying about who you are and what you intend. Manipulators tell folks what they think they want to hear. They show them what they think they want to see. We call this “impression management.” And it’s much easier than being genuine. That’s especially true when one’s primary intent is to sway.
Honesty in the Age of “Spin” and Narrative-Crafting
Honesty will always be a timeless, priceless virtue. But it’s taken a real beating in recent decades. We live in an age of relentless political “spin.” And marketers will tell you that persuasion is about how you “frame” your narrative or message. We hear many half-truths and distortions these days. And sometimes, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t.
The TV character “House” famously claimed that “everybody lies.” Sadly, to a certain extent, he’s right. But how we lie and why we lie matters, too. Disturbed characters lie for a variety of reasons. Mostly, however, they lie to gain advantage over others. Honesty, they understand, will sometimes get them nowhere. So, when all you’re concerned about is “winning” in the moment, it actually makes some sense to lie.
We once widely regarded truth as the “best policy.” That’s partly because we understood that it usually outs in the end, anyway. But it’s also because truth mattered to us more than it seems to these days. We’re pathetically used to deception on a variety of fronts. And we’re even more pathetically used to character disturbance. Everybody lies. It’s only a matter of how seriously and in what ways.
Honesty and Character Vetting
In our times, it’s of crucial importance to vet character well. And understanding the many subtle ways disturbed characters manipulate is often key. That’s mainly why I wrote In Sheep’s Clothing. Discerning folks’ capacity for honesty is particularly important to relationships. Knowing the common deception tactics, you can better look out for them. And when you see them, you know it’s not safe to trust.
Hear more about honest and character on the latest Character Matters podcast.