Is Honesty Always The Best Policy?

I have to say, I am amazed at  how many adults consider themselves to be ‘emotionally intelligent’ and yet still believe that ‘honesty is the best policy’ in everything we do.

Today, after reading a Facebook post that asked:

I’ve found out that a couple of my friends on facebook would happily sell me down the river and see me be hospitalised from a beating… all will be revealed shortly.

When it comes to business I am all for honesty and transparency.

Not only is it ‘ethically’ wrong to sell someone something that doesn’t work, or mislead them with false claims, it is also illegal. 

It is fraudulent and is basically theft of a person’s money.

In business, honesty is vital…

But honesty can also be incredibly harmful.

Before I get into why honesty can be harmful and is not always the best policy, let me first talk a bit more about the fallacy of honesty.

The Uncomfortable Truth About Honesty And Lying

When we were children we were told by our parents and teachers that we should never lie, but they lied to us all the time.

Santa, the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, the afterlife or spending forever in hell and damnation… all lies.

Some are fun, yes… but still lies.

How many parents have told their children that they shouldn’t eat sweets before going to bed and then right after tucking them into bed they reach for the sweet jar?

It’s a sad fact of life, parents lie to their children all the time.

Friends and partners lie to each other all the time.

Politicians, police, and authority figures lie to the public all the time.

We are surrounded by lies all the time.

Virtually every drama or film you watch is a lie. 

Unless you are watching a documentary featuring actual footage of something happening, then it is basically a lie.

Honesty means telling the truth and for something to be the truth, it has to actually be real.

That means all sales letters with financial or health claims are full of lies.

You see, with a sales letter you are projecting (or predicting) a specific (potential) outcome a reader may experience if they buy your product… 

Which means:

That it has not yet happened… and if it has not yet happened… 

Then it is not real… and if it is not real…

It is a lie.

Scroll down to carry on reading…

It doesn’t matter if you are basing that projection on someone else’s results, the projection is not real, and so it is a lie.

If you are sharing a true factual story without any form of projection, then it isn’t a lie, but as soon as you make people believe that they could achieve or do the same… it is a lie.

A belief is not real. 

Until they actually achieve or do what they believe will or can happen, it is just a belief… which is not real, so it is a lie.

Basically, everything in sales and marketing is a lie.

Because you are telling people what they could do or could experience… and as it has not actually happened yet, and you do not know what the actual outcome will be for that person… it is a lie.

The legend we call Seth Godin knew that which is why he wrote the book All Marketers Are Liars Tell Stories.

A story which ‘projects’ a future that has yet to happen… is basically a lie.

But that’s fine, it is a good lie because people know that it may or may not happen, they just hope it will happen.

How Being Honest Is Harmful

Telling the truth can get innocent people killed. 

Telling the truth can lead to unnecessary suffering.

As a person who loves Buddhist philosophy, I try to be as honest and truthful as possible each day, but I also allow each situation to dictate how honest I am.

The Dalai Lama himself said that lying is not bad if it is to save the life of an innocent person.

And that right there is the uncomfortable truth about honesty being the best policy… it isn’t.

Anyone who says that it is and that you should never tell a white lie no matter how small, is not as ethical or emotionally rounded as they may like to think.

And here’s why…

Are You A Decent Person Or A Complete Dick?

You see a person of a different colour running from a gang of white racists who are carrying weapons and out looking to give ‘non whites’ a beating. 

You watch as that person runs down an alley and hides behind a dumpster truck. 

The gang stops and asks you if you had seen which way their intended victim ran…

What do you say?

Do you tell the truth?

You see a gay person running from a gang of homophobes looking to give that person a kicking.

They run into a garden and the gang stops and asks you which way they went… 

What do you say?

Do you tell the truth?

You see a hungry and frightened homeless child running with a bread bun being chased by several angry adults who work on a bread stall in the local market. 

They are furious and waving big sticks in the air as they call for the child to stop. 

You watch as the child jumps a wall and hides under a bridge. 

The gang stops and asks you if you saw where the child went… 

What do you say?

Do you tell the truth? 

Remember… ‘honesty is the best policy’, apparently.

You are stopped in the street by a stranger who asks if you know where the nearest infants school is.

You recognise his face as someone who was once in the news for child abuse and you belive that he is now on the official sex offenders list… 

What do you say?  

Do you tell the truth?

If your answer to any of the above is “yes, I would tell the truth”, then you are sub-human and I don’t want to be your friend.

I don’t want anything to do with you.

I don’t want to be associated with you in any shape or form.

There are many MANY situations in life where telling the truth is a shitty and wrong thing to do.

If you cannot see that, then that is your problem.

Change The Subject

Honesty is not always the best policy…but if you struggle with the idea of ethical lying – IE not telling the truth to prevent unnecessary pain and suffering – then change the subject.

Very often I am drawn into conversations I don’t want, where I know that if I were to tell the truth, it would escalate the conversation into an argument.

There are some people that want to regularly ‘tell’ me their thoughts and opinions which are ‘factually incorrect’,

It’s nothing more than just bigotry, and I know that if I were to be honest at that precise time, it would just become a real pain of a conversation.. and so I don’t.

I either say something like ‘I see’ (that is a lie) or I try to change the subject. 

Please understand, these are people who will still want to chat crap no matter how many times you ‘truthfully’ say ‘I don’t want to discuss this subject’, they will still get the hump.

In these situations, it is best to lie and change the direction of the conversation without them even realising.

Anyone who says that honesty is the best policy is either not very good at the act of damage limitation – that is a HUGELY important skill if you want to live a peaceful life – or they get immense pleasure from arguing with people.

I no longer want to get involved in the same old arguments with the same old people. 

I avoid it like the plague because I have more respect for myself and have more important things to spend my time on.

That’s not to say that I won’t defend mine or someone else’s position when I need to.

I will stand up and be counted when the time is right, but I am not going to waste any more of my time having the same old conversations with the same old people if I can avoid it.

I shall lie as and when it is necessary. 

I have no qualms with lying if it will prevent unnecessary pain and suffering.

I really don’t believe that the people who say that ‘honesty is always the best policy’ have really thought about it deeply enough.

It is an easy-to-say ‘soundbite’ which people are conditioned to say because lying has been deemed a ‘bad thing to do’, and it can be for the most part, but not always, and these people generally don’t want to be seen as a bad person… which is understandable.

‘Honesty is the best policy’ and ‘lying is a bad thing to do’ are ‘surface statements’, but life is not full of ‘surface moments’

Life is complicated, it can be hard… and so can being a good and decent honest person.

The last thing we need is people insisting that we are honest and tell the truth in every situation.

That would be exhausting, and I don’t want other people’s unnecessary suffering on my hands.

Now, I need to go and process the idea that some people would rather see me get a beating and put in hospital rather than say a little white lie such as ‘no, I didn’t see him’, or ‘he ran that way’ while pointing in the opposite direction… thanks for that, friends!

Until next time.

Have a great day.

Andi

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