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No. 1 2016 | Why Be Honest?
Most people lie at least once during a ten minute conversation.
Why bother trying to be different? JW.org
Is Honesty Outdated?
Hitoshi worked in the accounting office of an employment agency in Japan. While reviewing a financial account with his superior, Hitoshi was told that he was expected to make a falsified report. Hitoshi explained that his conscience would not let him do dishonest work. As a result, Hitoshi’s superior threatened to fire him, and he ultimately lost his job.
In the months that followed, Hitoshi became downhearted over his employment prospects. During one job interview, for instance, Hitoshi mentioned that he could not engage in dishonest work. The interviewer responded, “Your way of thinking is strange!” Hitoshi’s family and friends encouraged him to remain firm in his resolve to be honest, yet he began to have some doubts. For instance, he said, “I wondered if being honest about my faith was a good idea.”
Hitoshi’s experience is a disturbing reminder that not everyone prizes honesty. In fact, some may even view it as a liability, particularly in the business community. “I’m surrounded by people who are dishonest,” said a working woman in South Africa, “and sometimes the pressure to conform is very great.”
One form of dishonesty that is particularly widespread today is lying. Some years ago, a study by Robert S. Feldman, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, determined that 60 percent of adults lie at least once during a ten-minute conversation. “It was a very surprising result,” says Feldman. “We didn’t expect lying to be such a common part of daily life.” Is it not strange that most people abhor the idea of being lied to yet there are few practices more common than lying?
Why are lying, stealing, and other forms of dishonesty so common today? How does dishonesty affect society as a whole? And more important, how can we avoid getting caught up in these dishonest practices?
How Dishonesty Affects You
“There are always difficult situations that can be solved with a little dishonesty.”—Samantha, South Africa.
Do you agree with that statement? Like Samantha, all of us have faced difficult situations at one time or another. How we react to situations that tempt us to be dishonest can reveal what values we hold dear. For example, if saving face is paramount to us, we would likely view being dishonest as just another tool used to accomplish the task. When the truth comes to light, however, dishonesty often brings negative consequences. Consider the following.
DISHONESTY DESTROYS TRUST
Relationships are built on trust. When two people trust each other, they feel safe and secure. But trust does not happen overnight. People build trust when they spend time together, engaging in honest communication and acting unselfishly. Trust can be shattered, however, by just one act of dishonesty. And when trust has been broken, it can be very difficult to rebuild.
Have you ever been deceived by someone you thought was a good friend? If so, how did you feel? Likely you felt hurt, even betrayed. That certainly is understandable. There is little doubt that dishonesty can destroy the fabric of precious relationships.
DISHONESTY BREEDS DISHONESTY
A study by Robert Innes, a professor of economics at the University of California, found that “dishonesty is indeed contagious.” Thus, dishonesty could be likened to a virus—the more contact you have with a person who is deceitful, the greater your risk of being “infected” with dishonesty yourself.
How can you avoid falling into the trap of dishonesty? The Bible can help you. Please consider a few Bible principles.
Forms of Dishonesty
A man takes off his wedding ring
WHAT IS IT? Saying something false to someone who is entitled to know the truth. Lying can include misrepresenting or distorting facts in order to mislead a person, omitting key information to deceive someone, and exaggerating the truth in order to give a false impression.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS: “Jehovah detests a devious person, but His close friendship is with the upright.” (Proverbs 3:32) “Now that you have put away deceit, each one of you speak truth with his neighbor.”—Ephesians 4:25.
Two men whisper as a man enters the room
WHAT IS IT? Uttering false and malicious statements that injure a person’s reputation.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS: “A troublemaker causes dissension, and a slanderer separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:28) “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out, and where there is no slanderer, quarreling ceases.”—Proverbs 26:20.
A man points to wristwatches hidden inside his coat
WHAT IS IT? Inducing someone to part with money or property on false pretenses.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS: “You must not defraud a hired worker who is in need and poor.” (Deuteronomy 24:14, 15) “The one who defrauds the lowly one insults his Maker, but whoever shows compassion to the poor glorifies Him.”—Proverbs 14:31.
A person steals a wallet out of a bag
WHAT IS IT? Taking property from a person without permission.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS: “Let the one who steals steal no more; rather, let him do hard work, doing good work with his hands, so that he may have something to share with someone in need.” (Ephesians 4:28) “Do not be misled. . . . Thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners will not inherit God’s Kingdom.”—1 Corinthians 6 :9 10 Or do you not know that unrighteous people will not inherit God’s Kingdom?+Do not be misled.*
Those who are sexually immoral,*idolaters,+adulterers,+men who submit to homosexual acts,+men who practice homosexuality,*
10 thieves, greedy people,+drunkards,+revilers,*and extortioners will not inherit God’s Kingdom.+
Why It Pays to Be Honest
“We trust we have an honest conscience, as we wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”—Hebrews 13:18.
In the Bible, the original Greek word that is sometimes translated “honesty” literally means “something that is intrinsically good.” It can also carry the meaning of something beautiful to behold in a moral sense.
Christians take seriously the apostle Paul’s inspired words: “We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” What does that involve?
THE STRUGGLE WITHIN
Most people glance at themselves in a mirror every morning before going out in public. Why? Because they want to look their best. But there is something much more important than having a stylish haircut or fashionable clothes. Indeed, the person we are on the inside can either add to or detract from our outward appearance.
God’s Word frankly admits that we are inclined to do what is bad. “The inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up,” says Genesis 8:21. Thus, to be honest, we must fight against our inborn sinful tendencies. The apostle Paul gave a vivid description of his own fight against sin, saying: “I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I see in my body another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my body.”—Romans 7:22, 23.
For example, when our heart urges us to do what is bad and we have a strong inclination to be dishonest, we do not have to be a slave to our heart’s impulses. We still have a choice in the matter. When we choose to reject a bad thought, we can remain honest despite the dishonesty surrounding us.
WINNING THE BATTLE
To be honest, we need a strong moral code. Sadly, however, many people spend more time deciding on their personal ‘dress code’ than they do on thinking about a personal moral code. As a result, they justify the amount of dishonesty that will suit their situation. The book The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty put it this way: “Essentially, we cheat up to the level that allows us to retain our self-image as reasonably honest individuals.” Is there, though, a reliable standard that can help us decide for ourselves how much—if any—dishonesty is acceptable? Thankfully, there is.
Millions of people the world over have found that the Bible perfectly fills that need. The Bible has a moral code that is beyond compare. (Psalm 19:7) It gives reliable guidance on such matters as family life, employment, morality, and spirituality. It has stood the test of time. Its laws and principles apply to all national groups, races, tribes, and peoples. By peering into the Bible, meditating on what it says, and applying its counsel, we can train our heart to be honest and upright.
Still, there is more to winning the battle against dishonesty than gaining an accurate knowledge of the Bible. After all, we live in a morally depraved world that pressures us to accept its corrupt standards. That is why we need to pray to God for his help and support. (Philippians 4:6, 7, 13) By doing so, we can have the courage to stand up for what is right and to be honest in all things.
REWARDS OF HONESTY
Hitoshi, quoted in the opening article, profited from having a reputation of being an honest worker. He now works for an employer who appreciates his honesty. “I am thankful,” says Hitoshi, “that I was able to find work that allows me to keep a clean conscience.”
Others have found the same to be true. Consider some examples of those who have benefited by applying the Bible principle to “conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”
“I left school at age 13 in order to work with thieves. As a result, 95 percent of my income was obtained by dishonest means. Later, I married, and my husband and I began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. We learned that Jehovah *God hates dishonest practices, so we decided to change our lifestyle. In 1990 we dedicated our lives to Jehovah and got baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses.”—Proverbs 6:16-19.
“In the past, my house was full of stolen goods, but now it is free from such things; and this gives me a clean conscience. Thinking back over my many years of dishonesty, I am grateful to Jehovah for his great mercy. It is so satisfying to go to sleep each night knowing that Jehovah is now pleased with me.”—Cheryl, Ireland.
“When my boss found out that I had turned down a bribe from a potential customer, he said to me: ‘Your God makes you such a trustworthy person! It truly is a blessing to have you here in our company.’ To be honest in all things enables me to have a clean conscience before Jehovah God. It also allows me to help my family and others to do the same.”—Sonny, Hong Kong.
Peace of Mind
“I work as an executive assistant at an international bank. In this business, honesty is often shoved aside for the sake of gaining wealth. The widespread view is, ‘What’s the harm in a little dishonesty if it promotes wealth and helps the economy?’ But by being honest, I have peace of mind. I am resolved to remain honest and face whatever consequences may come. My employers know that I will not lie to them or for them.”—Tom, United States.
“My supervisor at work encouraged me to lie about some missing supplies at work, but I refused. When the thieves were finally revealed, my employer thanked me for being honest. Being honest in a dishonest world calls for courage. But in the end, we can gain the trust and respect of others.”—Kaori, Japan.
A clean conscience, peace of mind, and self-respect—such rewards show that it really does pay to be honest. Do you not agree?