Photo by imelenchon on Morgue File.
Is it possible to be too honest, or is honesty always the best policy?
Honesty is something I have been taught my entire life. My family taught me to be honest, usually in the context of confessing some misdeed I had done as a child! My church has taught me to be honest, following the ethic of the Bible. My own conscience, molded by that Christian influence, has constrained me to honesty.
Of course, I have not always been honest . . . I know, shocker huh?!
There have been times when I have chosen the other path and have been dishonest. We call it many things. We call it a white lie, or a fib, or stretching the truth. Sometimes we even call it decorum or good manners.
And there are different reasons we do it. We do it because we don’t want people knowing the truth about this or that. We do it to conceal and hide motivations, opinions or feelings. We do it to protect friends and family; often times from themselves!
As a Christian, I believe it is important to deal honestly with other people. I think it is the moral and ethical thing to do. I also think it is a sign of respect for my fellow humanity to deal with them in honesty and integrity.
But, is there a line? Is it sometimes better to be dishonest, to stretch the truth? I mean sometimes the truth can be rather harsh and even confrontational. At such times should we just simply follow the old adage: if you can’t say something nice about someone, then don’t say anything at all?
Maybe honesty is not always the best policy, maybe silence is the better option in certain situations.
The Bible does teach us we should speak the truth in love. (Eph. 4.15) We often times stress the truth part (honesty); but, we fail to remember the second part, the qualifier: in love. Even when we must confront a person or deal with an uncomfortable matter, we can do it, in the Spirit of Christ, in love.
We tend just to blurt it out. Our attitude tends to be one of shock and awe. If we give it to them straight and plain, the reasoning goes, then it will shake them up and cause them to see the error of their ways. I’m not saying such an approach is always unwarranted, but I’m not sure it should be the default position either. Yes, there have been times when I needed the truth straight and hard, like a good Scotch. But, there have been more times where I needed the truth, but I needed it in a loving and affirming way.
It is easy to brandish the sword of truth when I am the one wielding it against a guilty party. It is easy to stand on the mount of Holier than Thou and bombard the lesser mortals with fiery darts of truth. Perhaps, this is why in the listing of spiritual armor in Ephesians 6, Paul does not (by way of inspiration) say the sword of truth; rather, he says, the belt of truth (Eph. 6.14) and the sword is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph 6.17). The truth then, in this scriptural analogy, is something that supports and girds one’s body. The sword, is God’s word, perhaps Paul feels we will treat God’s word with more respect and caution than we do our own.
So yes, honesty is important, but not at all costs. Love, as Paul teaches in 1 Cor. 13 is supreme for the follower of Christ.
Of course, there are many ethical questions and moral conundrums that arise from any discussion of this sort. In biblical ethics, the questions of truth over protecting life come up often. For instance, is it moral/ethical to lie to the Nazi soldiers about the hidden Jews upstairs under the bed, or should one be honest and trust the Lord will give protection. There are many others of this sort (e.g. Rahab and the spies of Israel).
While I would love to get into such a conversation, it has been a long and busy day and I do not have the mental stamina at the moment to walk that road. Perhaps in another post.
If you would like to add your thoughts or comments . . . feel free to do so.