I have always thought honesty to be important. If you are with honest people, you can sleep without nightmares, because you know they will take care of your needs. Once a while, I meet people who I feel I can trust even with my life. Although the people I will trust with my life are not many, I feel blessed to know them. I do not expect others to trust me with their lives, that is so grand a responsibility. Rather, I want people to rely on my word. My goal here is not to signal virtue. I am only exploring a topic I consider vital.
Honest people don’t contradict themselves. This is not to say they don’t change their minds. People who never change their minds on issues are likely to be immature. Often they are ideologues. I do not like ideologies. I don’t care to be consistent in this sense. I might say the opposite of what I am saying here tomorrow if that makes sense to me at that time. My point is that if you are honest you do not have to moderate your words because you are scared the truth will slip out. You just talk.
My definition of honesty is being truthful, especially when it hurts. Maybe this is not mine. I guess you would say something similar if I should ask you.
Although I believe honesty makes life easier, I also believe it is unwise to be honest in certain situations. Imagine a robber comes into your home and asks you where your dad keeps his money, at gun point. Suppose your dad keeps money in two places, one has majority of the cash, the other little. Do you tell the robber where your dad keeps all his cash, or you lead him to the small portion? You lead him to the small portion. If you don’t, you might play the fool like I once did.
Once upon a time I was in high school. One day, one of our teachers gave the class a good whipping. He skipped me. I called him back to tell him he didn’t cane me. He looked at me surprised. Luckily, he let me go. I don’t remember exactly what we did to suffer his anger, although I remember feeling what we did didn’t warrant his response. So why would I remind someone to punish me when I didn’t deserve it? It was my misguided sense of honesty.
The story I related earlier about robbers entering ones home and demanding for money leads me to this conclusion- not everyone has the right to truth. Don’t get me wrong. I have already made known how important honesty is. Any society without trust is royally f**ked. However, we shouldn’t be honest just for the sake of honesty; you don’t have to be honest to criminals. Thinking this way, it is possible to think of situations where telling lies may not only be appropriate, but necessary. Still I am uncomfortable with the idea of misleading people because you think they do not deserve to know the truth. Since deciding who deserves to know the truth is subjective, a lot of evil can be done with a self serving interpretation. So I am not going to give particular instances where I think it is a good idea to lie. To be honest, I can’t think of any now, except dishonesty to criminals when one can reasonably get away with, which I have spoken about. I might be better to be silent than lie actively when misleading others becomes necessary.
James Altucher talks about what he calls constructive honesty in his books. This is simply the kind honesty that does no harm to others. Do no harm seems to be the credo of value systems that last. My goal is to be honest in such a way that I don’t leave tremors in places I have been. In a book, Altucher gives an example of this- imagine telling your wife’s best friend you want to have sex with her. It is not impossible to think of this as truth. You will be telling the truth, but imagine saying this before your wife in the name of radical candour. It wouldn’t be wise.
There’s also the problem of what the truth is, because feelings can be false. We respond to stimuli in our environment through our feelings. The evolutionary role of feelings is to enable us to survive. We feel fear when we see snakes, because our fear makes us take flight; thus avoiding snake bites; thus surviving. So feelings-like fear- don’t just arise in us. Rather, they have a purpose- to enable us avoid harm. Our feelings then will be false if they cause us harm than help us avoid them. We can have a wrong feelings if our feelings push as to react in another way than our circumstances demand. Our feelings can be mapped unto a wrong worldview. In circumstances like that we need to question our feelings instead of working with them as truth, and going on to propagate them. This leads to some interesting insights. That what we think is not necessarily the truth. We attach feelings to our thoughts, and in the same way feelings can be false, our thoughts can be false. I will admit that this discussion of how our feelings can be false may not be very useful in everyday life. Why? Because we often know it when someone is rude, and there is nothing wrong with saying he or she is rude. I only want to shine light on being circumspect in our utterances. We can be misled by our human nature. We can be misled by our feelings. We can easily put those who disagree with us in the category of being evil, which more often than not, is not what they are.
Some feelings are fleeting. Like a crush on someone. Or when you think someone is a son of Belial. Time makes you know if these kind of thoughts are what you really think. So we should give things time. We should be careful of saying the first thing that comes into our heads. This is not being unreal. It’s being cautious.
I said earlier that I don’t want to create chaos with my utterances. I want a hassle-free life. However, I admit that it is sometimes impossible not to offend others. I mean, someone might be offended by the mere fact that you are alive. I haven’t met anyone like that yet. Do people like that exist? I also don’t want to make it my life goal to piss people off. It’s funny; I see people who live this way. It appears to be a conscious effort to annoy their opponents. Like religious people who remind unbelievers that they will go to hell. Atheists who use all their time to remind religious folks they are retards. Feminists who think men are evil. Men who think all feminists are delusional. The commonality among these people is that everything about them is extreme. If they use examples from their opponents, they take extreme ones. Sometimes you wonder if they live with real people, or if they are themselves real. When I see these behaviours these days, I ask myself, “Is this how this person wants to live?” Then I ignore.
But I am sure these people are telling their truths. The questions is whether these truths are important.
Thank you for reading.