Saturday, July 25, 2009

He Said: A Perspective on Being Honest in Dealing with Your Fellow Man

Several years ago my wife broke down and admitted that in her temple recommend she admitted to her bishop that she wasn't always honest in her dealings with her fellow man since she told small lies to me her husband all the time about different things i.e. reporting lower expenses at Walmart etc. She was looking at the question with a macro view. Most of think of the question in the micro view.

This particular question is hard to actually answer and is mostly answered by persons including me once or twice in my life like "I am trying to do that." In terms of the macro view, I am not a usual person since I tend to be brutally honest and say whatever is on my mind. This may actually border on being non-Christian. It is not an enduring quality that many of my fellow Saints particularly enjoy about me.

My wife constantly says to me something to elicit that I think she is drop-dead gorgeous. I always think of her even today as when she was twenty-three and weighed about 110 pounds. I thinks she was cute as a button. I once told her when we were first married that I would love her even when she was old. Lately as she has approached fifty she has been more insecure and I have to tell her constantly that I love her more than anyone else. For the most part I am telling the truth but every now and then I am forced to not say something about some physical feature like a wrinkle or grey hair or bags under her eyes or age spots. I use silence as a way to not discuss them. I still find her attractive but I don't want to add to her insecurities. When I was young I would say I love you but you could learn to lose those extra few pounds and live with the fight that might ensue.

I have a compulsion to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I am not sure that many Mormons including my own children to my spouse to my fellow members want to hear the brutal truth. You smoked some pot so you are not living the word of wisdom and shouldn't go to the temple etc. Some people like to let it all hang out. In PECs which I despised going to I heard every problem of every member for years and years. It just plain depressed me when a well meaning leader discussed their problems with a desire to help them. Sometimes it was way too much information. In my quorums I hear about how we don't measure up by not home teaching, reading scriptures, holding home evening etc. I am tempted to be honest and say how can you, who lie about doing it from time to time, lean on the rest of us?

I am convinced that it is almost impossible if we don't want to traumatize everyone around us to tell the truth and be totally honest. When I was a student at BYU I attended a class by Elmer Knowles about self-disclosure. He said the only difference between a rational and sane person and a irrational and insane person was how and what they disclosed. He said if you want to improve your relationships with others you needed to choose what you self-disclose.

When I am pushed to be honest I will tell the truth. I am not into telling little white lies like my wife and many that I encounter. I think it is more honest to just not say anything when asked and say you refuse to comment. Most of us think of the honesty part as involving money so strictly speaking I would interpret the question as do you steal from others?

I learned a lesson about honesty from Yoshihiko Kikuchi when I left a $.19 ball point pen in his office one day when visiting and he mailed it back. The postage cost more than the pen. I think about how many of us put a pen in our pockets at a store or work and never return it. I think about how many of us blog at work on company time or fudge a little on travel expenses. Or find a package of toilet paper in a shopping cart or find an item on our grocery list the clerk made a mistake in our favor and we don't give them back the money next time we go in. I think about how we round up or down our tithing.

I think we either need to repent or we should realize that the question is asked us to minimize our bad behavior. Many more of us can answer the micro question and be in compliance but even fewer can ask the macro question and be in compliance. I think the number of honest people who can answer 100% are candidates for Enoch's City or could dance on the head of a pin.


  1. Thanks for writing about this. I think it is interesting to know what people think about honesty because I tend to be extremely honest (although not rude or blunt) and it makes me uncomfortable when others aren't. I have never understood the little white lies my friends seem to tell (like telling someone on the phone that so and so isn't there, etc.) I always tell the clerk if it is a mistake in my favor and I can't seem to take home office equipment like so many others. It makes it very awkward to live in a world where even people from my own religion don't have the same idea about honesty. I try to understand other people's perspective better because when these people are people who are very close you have to live with it.