Honesty is the best Policy

Saket is student of 5th standard. He hadn’t prepared for the Mathematics exam, and so was expecting the least from that exam. When the results came and he received his answer sheet, he was literally astonished as he had got one of the highest marks in that particular subject. 89 read the bold numerals on the top right corner of the answer sheet. He was overjoyed, though a little puzzled. On calculating the marks awarded in the individual questions, he realized that his teacher had wrongly given him 89 for what should have been 69.

The next thing what he did is something we would hardly expect from the grown ups nowadays, let alone a kid maybe 10 years old. He went to the teacher and politely asked him to deduct the marks as he had been wrongly awarded.

“Bad for your marks but good for your honesty. But why would you come back to me and get your marks deducted while I would have hardly noticed it?”

“Sir, honestly, this is what I have been taught by my parents. I can work hard and get it by hook, but my parents never taught me to do something by crook.”

What is honesty? Is it the best policy? If yes, why are there so less of people who are honest nowadays? Does it have some escape clause that people don’t stick to being the “honest” types? The following passage will try to look into the various aspects of honesty, and try to find out if honesty is really worth being the best policy.

Many children understand the definition of honesty to be “not to lie”. But a complete definition of honesty also means that an honest person doesn’t do things that are morally wrong. It also may include aspects like being truthful to yourselves, which is the initial part of being the “honest” types. Another way we can understand being honest is being blunt, straightforward and hence giving the right criticism or feed back required. Being an honest person means being honest to your profession, family and relationship – practically every aspect of your life.

Honesty is the best policy as it brings the best from inside of you, shows your respect for truthfulness. Honesty is showing respect for what is the practically the right thing to do. If your father is himself in Police, knows all the laws of Indian Penal Code and knows how domestic violence is a crime.Now you see him beating your mother and don’t complain to the Police about his atrocity and cruelty against the women who bore you keeping you in your womb taking the pain for 9 months, you are not an honest person. You share the same share of dishonesty as your father. Had you been honest to what is morally correct, you would have made a complaint to the Police. Being honest in this case would prevent further atrocities against your mother – showcasing how it is the best policy indeed.

The fable we heard long back of how the Shepard called for his fellow villagers lying about the fox that never attacked is very well known. When the fox really came and attacked him, despite him calling again for the villagers, they never came. They had lost trust on him and had developed this pre conceived notion that he must be lying. Had the shepard been honest, he would be alive even after the fox attacked. He should have considered honesty as the best policy. Be it now or later, a lie is going to get exposed. It’s better to say the truth and win people’s trust, then to lie and loose their trust forever. It takes thousand truths to build trust, just one lie to loose it.

What else? Honesty is being honest to yourself. If you are not being honest to yourselves, you are the biggest loser in the game. You siting in front of the television with book in your hands, showing your parents that you are preparing for the upcoming test while the corner of your eyes is ticking with the scores of the match being played is being dishonest to yourselves. It’s not them whom you are fooling. You are fooling yourself. How can you think to score better this time, when you are not honest to your preparation?

Be it the Jaina, Buddhist or the Vedas, each philosophy talks about a life spent with simplicity. A simple life can be regarded as a life devoid of the non-essentials, be uncomplicated. This simplicity cannot be achieved without honesty. An honest person can live without simplicity, but the opposite of this isn’t always true. Whenever we lie,we have to use several other lies to cover the first one. The memory of the first lie isn’t long lived. As pointed out in the Shepard fable, truth always finds its way. The result? Pain, sorrow, complications. Stress can thus lead to long term psychological and physical problems – even heart strokes.

Being dishonest is creating a virtual world, an alternate reality. The other person thinks it is the truth, which is actually not the case. You have to carry this burden of the lie till the truth gets leaked. A dishonest person thus formulates two different world’s, the true world and the virtual world, the world with an alternate reality. While an honest person has to live in the true world whole of his life, a dishonest person keeps on balancing in between. We see lots of cases about how a marital affair led to murder, conspiracy killings and divorce in most cases. Why to destroy life of not only yours and hers, but also the children! Honesty leads to simplicity, while dishonesty leads to duplicity – the exact opposite.

Our country has acquired the “bureaucratic” type of government from the Britishers. But there is something more we inhibited from them – being corrupt. Now the corrupt officials of the East India Company is well known. But the bureaucratic government that follows till today has had its webs of dishonesty and corrupt officials since independence. The result? We still are one of the most corrupt ridden democracy, with little implementation of schemes and intermediaries eating up what is allotted to the poor. What has been following is a storm of poor, hungry, depressed. Wouldn’t it be so better if the bureaucrats were honest?

When you lie to someone, you are always in a fear of getting caught. But when you are honest with your inputs, however blunt you maybe, the person seeking your advice may feel bad for sometime, but will come up with his best later. It’s better to be straightforward with your constructive criticism and let the seeker improve now, even though he feels bad, then letting him cry because you couldn’t manage to be straightforward and honest when he/she needed you the most. Similarly, it’s better to call your boss and tell him about your fallibility before taking up the project than being dishonest, first by taking up the project even though you cannot complete it, and second by plagiarizing only to get caught later – and suffer from humiliation.

An honest friend will always love the honest you and not the virtual you. When Nehru gave the statement “Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai”, he wouldn’t have realized that this was the fake side of the now friend, who would initiate the enmity and in a way be the reason for his death. Hadn’t it been better if China had been honest about his intention and been the same from the start? Wouldn’t it be better is it was the “Honesty” policy that was propagated by it and not the “String of Pearls” policy?

What goes around, comes around too. GOD is that infinite soul who decides the fruits (fala) of the deeds(Karma). But in this era, the fala comes to you in the same birth. Suppose you are walking on the road and the person in front drops his wallet while trying to put it in the back pocket. When you pick it up, you see that it has enough amount to buy the long awaited diamond ring you promised your wife. An honest person would keep himself in the owner’s position, realize what is right, run to him and return the wallet. But if you are dishonest and use that money for personal gains, be assured of the coming loss. You may be in the same position as the owner of the wallet sometime ahead, regretting your decision in the past.

But is being honest always the best that can be done? There is something called “misleading truth” too, which can be used to save a friend of yours. Suppose you are gifted a tie from your best friend, which you don’t like. But you don’t want your friend to get hurt. So what can you do when he asks if you liked it? You may just say  “I haven’t got such a gift before”. All it means is, sometimes being misleadingly honest is good to not hurt a friend’s feeling.

What is the reason that people nowadays have lost all character and are hardly honest? Stiff competition. To be the best by hook or by crook. But is it how you should be? When you choose a life of character, you’ll realize that you’ve nothing to hide. You are like a free bird. You have a life less complicated, less stressful and more satiated than your colleague who plagiarized. To be honest from outside, you need to be honest from inside too. Follow you commitments, but if you cannot, simply call and say NO to you boss. It’s easier to say an honest NO than a dishonest YES. Deducting marks may not help Saket today, but his honesty may get him a better position when he goes for an interview. If you don’t love her, tell her than having an extra marital affair. If he isn’t doing good, criticize him now and see him succeed later.