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Is Honesty the Best Policy?

By Qasim Swati (United Kingdom)

Being a true commitment between behaviours and relationships with other people, honesty is one of the highest degrees of quality in human character. This is the quality of being truthful, sincere, frank, candid and forthright. An honest person is telling the truth and/or able to be trusted and not likely to lie, cheat or steal.

On the other hand, dishonesty, which is the opposite of being honest, is a term, used for many human activities, characteristics or actions, like deception, falsehood, duplicity/two-facedness or insincerity, hypocrisy, disruptive behaviour, fabrication, collusion, conspiracy, misrepresentation, cheating, work-shyness or shirking (avoiding your work, duties or responsibilities), fraud, bribery, illegal behaviour or misconduct, the abuse of power (s) by those in charge, money laundering, embezzlement, double-dealing/betrayal or treachery, theft and other corruptive elements or acts, such as, diverting funds, defrauding investors, graft, under-the-table transactions, coercion/extortion, influence peddling, manipulating elections/electoral fraud/vote rigging, business networking for job-seeking, favouritism, nepotism, clientelism, cronyism, parochialism, patronage and so on.

Generally speaking, if someone tells the truth and does not lie, such a person is known as ‘honest’, but honesty is not just about telling the truth. Instead, “Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving”, as defined by James Esdras Faust (1920-2007), an American politician, lawyer and religious leader.

This is crystal clear that honesty is better than dishonesty. We can benefit from dishonest activities for a short time, but our such actions will have bad consequences sooner or later at some point in our lives. But, as discussed in Part 7 of his book ‘The Prince’, an Italian diplomat, historian, author and philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), believes that people are basically self-interested and unreliable. “Men are quick to change ruler when they imagine they can improve their lot”, according to Machiavelli. He also argues that “Men are so thoughtless they’ll opt for a diet that tastes good without realising there’s a hidden poison in it”, because they are stupid and irrational, incapable of knowing what is actually best for them. He is of the opinion that “A man will sooner forget the death of his father than the loss of his inheritance”, because people are greedy. As people are, according to him, shallow, who do not show any serious or careful thought or real understanding about what reality is, so, “All men (people) want glory and wealth.” Being manipulative, by nature, “A man (human being) will always be out to trick you unless you force them to be honest”, as argued by Niccolo Machiavelli.

Thus, some people try to use dishonest ways of making more money for doing nothing, getting power in the society by hook or by crook, abusing their power when needed and exploiting others for the sake of their own vested interests and benefits. By doing so, such people may benefit from playing their tricks for a short while, but their such dishonest acts may, one day, do them a lot of damage in some way. This is the reason why a well-known English poet, playwright and actor, William Shakespeare (1564-1616), believes, as: “No legacy is so rich as honesty.”

The Book of Wisdom or the Wisdom of Solomon is a book about wisdom, its benefits, nature and role in ancient Israel’s history. While referring to the significance of honesty, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), an American lawyer, diplomat, statesman, philosopher, architect and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, who served as the third president of the country, says, as: “Honesty is the first chapter in the Book of Wisdom.”

We can face failure by making the mistake to indulge in dishonest activities at some point during our lifespan, which can be avoided by being honest and keeping us away from fraudulent, corrupt and double-dealing tactics whilst dealing with others. That is why an American author, hedge-fund manager, entrepreneur and pod-castor, James Altucher, believes that “Honesty is the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a failure.”

Sometimes, people feel that they may lose by being honest and may not be able to achieve what they want to. So, they tend to adopt unscrupulous and unethical approaches for getting the desired results from their actions. However, a famous American figure skater and Olympic gold medallist, Scott Hamilton, believes that “The high road (a morally superior approach towards something) is always respected. Honesty and integrity are always rewarded.”

Whilst determining honesty as the basis of a successful life, once a renowned American businesswoman and founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc., Mary Kay Ash (1918-2001), highlighted the importance of honesty, as: “Honesty is the cornerstone of all success, without which confidence and ability to perform shall cease to exist.”

There are many things which we will have to throw away after they become useless, ineffective and obsolete through continued use, which are no longer in good condition or working order, but this is not the case with honesty. Instead, you can be able to be honest as long as you want. This is why Waylon Arnold Jennings (1937-2002), an American musician, songwriter and singer, believed in the durability of honesty, as: “Honesty is something you can’t wear out.”

Whatever we may face while behaving in an honest way in our lives, we should keep in mind that the real time in life is the moment which we spend in being honest with others in our dealings. We should not think to know how long we live, but we should think about how honestly we live instead. This is what has been referred to by an English writer, courtier, dramatist and parliamentarian, John Lyly (1553-1606), as: “The true measure (standard; scale; system) of life is not length, but honesty.”

Being honest is not only essential for dealing with others in our personal lives on a daily basis, but this is very important to be honest while running any sort of business as well. That is why a renowned Australian businessman, Kerry Matthew Stokes, believes, as: “Ethics or simple honesty is the building blocks upon which our whole society is based, and business is a part of our society, and it’s integral to the practice of being able to conduct business, that you have a set of honest standards.”

Hilary Hinton “Zig” Ziglar (1926-2012) was an American motivational speaker, author and salesman. He was so overwhelmed with the significance of honesty that he used to say: “The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.”

While setting the qualities of being honest and faithful as the basis of a successful life, an American model and actor, Taylor Daniel Lautner, opines, as: “Honesty and loyalty are key. If two people can be honest with each other about everything, that’s probably the biggest key to success.”

In light of so many evidences, facts, proofs and arguments in favour of being honest, we come to the conclusion that Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), an American polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, was right when he said: “Honesty is the best policy.”

Qasim Swati is a freelance journalist, writer and human rights activist, based in the UK, and can be reached at https://qasimswati.com or qasimswati2003@yahoo.co.uk.

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