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The Truth About Honesty #MondayMusings

Everybody lies. That’s the truth. But how much and how often? And when do the lines between truth and lies get blurred? I recently read an article in The New York Times about how honesty makes you happier. The author shares how her 6 year old daughter told her that telling the truth made her feel ‘gold in the brain’.  What is honesty? If someone asks me “How am I looking?” and I tell her she looks old and fat, is that honesty? When I share my story or update a status on Facebook in which I somehow get perceived as the ‘heroine’, is that honesty?  It’s hard to tell. Because every story has more than one version of the truth. What is the truth about honesty?

the truth about honesty

What is the truth about honesty?

“We are all very good at rationalizing our actions so that they are in line with our selfish motives.”
― Dan Ariely, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves

That is certainly the truth.

We all tell lies out of compassion – to not be rude or to hurt someone. For example, answering a ‘how do I look’ question with ‘Lovely’. To me, this are alright. But going out of your way to fawn over someone and tell them how wonderful they look, when you don’t think so, is not acceptable to me. Do I always like to be told the truth about my appearance? No. But as Khaled Hosseini said “Better to get hurt by the truth than comforted with a lie.”

We tell lies to get ourselves out of social situations. You don’t want to go to a party, so you tell the host you’re busy. Is that okay? I don’t think so. One of the most practical reasons for this is that you might get asked again, or you’ll get caught. As Mark Twain famously said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

My struggle with authenticity

My writing  is a struggle to be authentic without hurting other people. But how can I share my truth without that? In recent posts, I’ve been attempting to be as honest as I can about my relationship with my Mum. I remember writing a post about loyalty being overrated and saying this in response to a comment:  I have sometimes observed people being more loyal to a parent/family member after that person has passed. As if somehow in their passing away, they have acquired sainthood!  I’m glad to say that I have steered clear of that kind of dishonesty. My Mom was human, just as I am and I’d like to remember and honour her for the woman she was.

The dishonesty that I rate the worst is when we lie to ourselves. I fight a hard battle to be honest to myself. Do I always win? No. But I try. I strongly believe in self-awareness and telling myself off. And I’m blessed to have José telling me when I’m being dishonest or inauthentic. I’ve slowly learned to take it from him. Am I always honest and authentic. No, no, no. But I’m aware that it is what I’m called to be and I work at it.

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky (The Brothers Karamazov)

What’s your take on honesty? Does honesty feel like ‘gold in the brain’ for you?
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  1. mackenzieglanville mackenzieglanville October 1, 2017

    “Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
    — Fyodor Dostoyevsky (The Brothers Karamazov)

    Brilliant! I so agree, I just sent this quote to a friend and mentioned your blog, her and I were talking about this topic the other day. Someone has been telling her lies, and we know they are lies, yet this person we think truly believe it to be truth. It is a line you have to be careful with.

    In regards to telling someone how they look it is a question that is really in the eye of the beholder isn’t it. If I think someone looks old, the next person may say young, someone may think beautiful whereas someone else may think fat. We can only tell our own version, our own truths. Two people in the same argument have different perspectives and interpretations. SO it is such a complex subject. I am always honest as I can be but with respect. I wouldn’t gush over someones outfit if I didn’t like it, but if asked and I hated it I would find something positive to say. #mg

  2. Lucy At Home Lucy At Home September 29, 2017

    I try to be honest. I think this is important so that people around me can trust me and, particularly, so that my kids know that they can trust me. I hate it when parents tell their kids lies like “You have to eat your vegetables or the police man will come and get you” – they will eventually learn that this was a lie, and will begin to question everything else that you’ve taught them. If you are honest, people can believe what you say. However, I don’t think it’s nice to be “brutally honest” – you can be honest in a kind, caring way #mg

  3. Rose Tinted Ramblings Rose Tinted Ramblings September 28, 2017

    Strive for honesty but don’t be hurtful in your pursuit of it. My tendency is if the truth isn’t nice to try and stay quiet. Being true to yourself is a tough one especially when it’s accepting negative truths. However the more honestly you live life, the happier and less complicated it will be… I honestly think that

  4. Obsessivemom Obsessivemom September 27, 2017

    Honesty is so simple at one level and yet can get so very complex. I loved that quote. I have such a terrible memory that I find it easier to stick to the truth :-). The toughest bit, like you pointed out – is to be true to ourselves. Quite often we don’t even know we are being dishonest to ourselves. I think each one us needs to introspect.

  5. Sheethalsusan Sheethalsusan September 27, 2017

    I learned the valus of honesty the hard way. Once, fresh into youth, i lied to my parents not to hurt them, but one day the lie was got, and that was the worst. That lie didn’t benefit me in anyway, but rather destroyed so many good days and night. After that I try not to lie much. Yes, still at times, it’s tricky not to.

  6. Haralee Haralee September 26, 2017

    What gets me is omission. I think this is a rationalization that the person is not lying but just omitting facts to make their story better, themselves look better or the other person worse or to rally you to their side if they leave out details. I don’t lie except for niceties in a pinch. I have learned to say vague, nonspecific things when asked like that is a pretty color dress or you are lucky to have your children living close, or your grandchild appears to be very responsive!

  7. Parul Thakur Parul Thakur September 26, 2017

    Honesty is gold for me. But yes, when it comes to “how do I look?”, I don;t go overboard but I won’t ever say a word that I don’t want to hear. That Mark Twain quote is what I have followed throughout my life. I keep things simple by speaking the truth. 🙂

  8. Rajlakshmi Rajlakshmi September 26, 2017

    If my honesty hurts someone, it certainly doesn’t feel like gold in the brain if I don’t like something then I reply with a suggestion rather that telling it doesn’t look good… I take the diplomatic way out.

  9. vishalbheeroo vishalbheeroo September 26, 2017

    It’s another brutally honest post on the relativity of honesty. It’s very important not to lie to the self and do spell out white lies at times when I don’t want to go somewhere. You have explore the whole facade that we put and particularly in our equation with the loved ones who may not be here. Thanks Corinne for pushing us to delve deeper and think about things.

  10. Vasantha Vivek Vasantha Vivek September 26, 2017

    Honesty is of big question in this era. And being honest gets a tease always. But being honest to oneself make the person more stronger. Great post, Corinne. Happy that you are trying your best to be honest always.

  11. Miss Andi Miss Andi September 26, 2017

    Good questions! Thanks for asking them! I think the most important about honesty is like you said, it’s not black or white – it’s personal where we draw that line and as such we need to be very careful not to judge others on where they placed their own line: what’s acceptable to you, might not be acceptable to them or vice versa.

  12. Shalzmojo Shalzmojo September 26, 2017

    I love being dishonest with myself at times; its a guilty pleasure I accord myself and I wont go into the reasons for doing so as they are very personal!! I know I am being dishonest but allow myself a soak in that bubble to face the hard truth better! Its my go-to stressbuster and not sure if its good or bad but it works for me!
    Loved this post Corinne as it really asked a very tough question!!!!

  13. Natasha Natasha September 26, 2017

    I’ve messaged you my thoughts on this Corinne, as it’s a very long comment. Will write a summary in a while. 🙂

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | September 26, 2017

      Got it. Thank you, Natasha. Looking forward to that post! 🙂

  14. thesingleswan thesingleswan September 26, 2017

    Honesty is a tough subject. It is really important to be honest with yourself, and I most definitely agree with the point that if you tell yourself a lie often enough, you begin to believe it. Having said that, I do sometimes think that a little white lie, particularly to children, is kind of okay. The world can be a really cruel place and sometimes a little white lie can protect them from that. Not forever, obviously, but until they are older. Pen x #mg

  15. Michele Morin Michele Morin September 25, 2017

    Without totally geeking out on the Enneagram, I will say that this is a real struggle for me because I’m a 3 with a 4 wing. The 3 in me wants to project a “certain image” while that 4 influence is hollering “Be your unique snowflake self!”
    This lines up perfectly, of course, with what Jeremiah says about all of us: “The heart is deceitful above all things . . .:
    Oh, yes. I know it well.
    Thanks for this insightful and slightly uncomfortable post!

  16. mocktail mommies mocktail mommies September 25, 2017

    First line made me laugh out loud! So honest, I thought!
    Right now I am reading Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik. Its a retelling of Mahabharata. All throughout the story there are many anecdotes that speak about honesty or lying. In one of the tales however, the reader is left to think if speaking truth and being honest is really good or otherwise! The honesty that can worsen the situation is definitely no good! And at the same time speaking a lie, if it improves the situation and is not far too fetched, then it holds ground!
    – Anagha From Team MocktailMommies

  17. Modern Gypsy Modern Gypsy September 25, 2017

    There is honesty and there is a white lie – like the one about telling someone they look lovely. Both have their place. Honesty with oneself is so much trickier sometimes, and I’m sure it’s something that most of us struggle with – not many are open about admitting it, though!

  18. Zainab Zainab September 25, 2017

    Being honest can be hard! At times it’ can cost us a lot;)
    But yes I agree warming some one up and saying you look good, is great- to keep their heart.
    But overdoing it is wrong.

    I also feel, if someone is right it’s ok to compliment them truly!

  19. Nabanita Nabanita September 25, 2017

    It tricky this whole concept of honesty. I think some lies are fine when they are told to shield someone from getting hurt. But all of these only when you can still look into your eyes in the mirror. I find myself steering away from the truth only when it may hurt someone. And that sometimes turns to be my mistake and leads to all kinds of misunderstandings.

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