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Personal Accountability

The Importance of Honesty

by Timothy McCabe

Telling the truth can be very difficult at times. We are all tempted to lie, especially when it seems like lying will keep us out of trouble. These situations can make us question the importance of honesty. But there are several good reasons to think that honesty is the best policy—even when it exposes our shortcomings to those we care most about.

Do Unto Others

Think about it from the other person’s perspective.

When we discover that we’ve been lied to, we often stop trusting the person who deceived us. People who frequently lie tend to leave a trail of broken relationships in their wake. They have difficulty keeping friends because no one likes to be lied to. No one can trust them, so no one lets them into their lives.

Those who make the mistake of trusting someone who frequently lies soon learn their lesson and push the liar away. You cannot trust a liar with your secrets. You cannot trust a liar with your possessions. You cannot trust them in your home, or with your friends, or with your family.

People who frequently lie tend to leave a trail of broken relationships in their wake.

Thinking about the lies of others quickly clears up the question of whether or not we ought to be honest ourselves. Do you want to be someone that nobody trusts? Do you want people to abandon you? Do you want others to warn their friends away from you before you even meet them?

One of the key teachings of Jesus is known as the Golden Rule: “do toward others as you would have others do toward you” (Matthew 7:12). This is a helpful guideline for determining how to behave in a wide variety of scenarios. Whether or not to tell the truth is one such situation.

The way you would respond to someone who lies to you is likely the way that others will respond to you if you aren’t honest with them. Is that the kind of response you want?

What a Tangled Web We Weave

Even when we aren’t caught in the lie, honesty can still be seen to be a better policy. Lies often get out of hand very, very quickly. A little fib that seemed almost innocent at the time often leads to truckloads of additional lies to cover one’s tracks. It can get so complicated that it’s difficult to keep one’s own story straight. The amount of hard work that it can take to maintain a lie can quickly become overwhelmingly stressful—even if you’re never caught.

Lies often get out of hand very, very quickly.

The truth, on the other hand, is always easy to remember. It’s not anywhere near as difficult to keep your own story straight when you’re telling about the events that occurred as you actually remember them. While you may initially have stress at the thought of revealing a difficult truth to those you love, the difficult work of maintaining a lie can often be far more stressful and agonizing in the long run.

Self-Destructive “Safety”

Not only can it be very difficult to maintain a lie, and not only is that difficulty itself a good reason to choose honesty instead, but sometimes keeping a lie can even get so overwhelmingly difficult that the dishonest person decides the relationship itself needs to go. Scuttling a relationship because telling lies has become so difficult is sadly not infrequent, and is a common self-destructive effect of dishonesty.

People will often divorce, or quit their jobs, or get themselves fired, or stop visiting their family because it is too difficult to maintain a lie, and telling the truth is not an option they will consider. If you choose a path of dishonesty, then in order to make sure that your friends and family never know the truth, you may eventually wind up destroying precious relationships to avoid the stress of maintaining your fiction.

Being the Best You

Often when we are dishonest, it is because we want to be seen as being the person we wish we actually were, rather than the person we actually are. But, interestingly enough, by being honest we can be more like that person we wish to be.

By being honest we can be more like that person we wish to be.

As one writer put it, “there's a wonderful, if subtle, benefit to aiming to tell the truth in as many circumstances as we can that turns out to be the only reason that I find actually gives me pause when I'm tempted not to: a dedication to honesty motivates us to strive to become all the good things lying helps us pretend we already are.”

God’s Word Is Truth

Our world is what it is because that is how God wants it to be. As such, the truth reflects God’s will. The Bible puts it this way: God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). Additionally, Jesus, the Word of God (John 1:1), claimed to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). For the Christian, these passages make it clear that telling the truth is one way to honor God.

God-honoring worship is most consistent with a lifestyle of honesty, rather than a pattern of deception.

Repentance and Forgiveness

Perhaps you’re just now realizing the importance of honesty. If you are someone who has been dishonest in the past, and you realize that the lies you’ve told were not the right choice, it isn’t too late for you to choose a path of honesty. Talk to a trusted friend or a wise counselor about your particular situation and to get advice on how you should go about dealing with your own past, because the exact steps that should be taken to rectify any given situation will always be unique.

Nevertheless, we have a forgiving God who loves us to such a degree that He made our forgiveness possible through the death of His own Son. Ultimate forgiveness for any lie is always available before God if we place our faith in Jesus the Christ.

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