IS honesty the best policy?
by Wendy Keller
In his excellent book “The Four Agreements”, don Miguel Ruiz talks about the importance of being impeccable with our word. In other words, telling the truth.
I re-read that book at least once a year. One of my Resolutions for 2013 is to be even more honest this year than last. So when my daughter needed a health insurance policy, the rep asked me a very thorough question about my daughter’s current state of health. Truth is, she needs to have a mole biopsied, which is why I was pursuing insurance in the first place. I thought about not mentioning it, because there’s no way the dermatologist has reported it yet, but then I remembered my commitment. I told the rep the truth and she said, “Well, she might be denied because of this.”
Part of telling the truth is that it theoretically makes one’s life less complicated. Well, maybe not in this case.
My daughter’s father (my former spouse) called me today to ask me about the status of her healthcare application and I told him I’d just gotten the letter denying her coverage for now. He became intense, asking me why I’d told them. I told him because it is the truth and I’m practicing being a more honest person.
He seemed agitated by this. I did not feel morally superior to him, because I am in no position to judge anyone. What I did feel was…healthy pride in myself. Not vanity, mind you. But pride. I did the right thing and even though the short term effect was to fluster him, and probably pay a lot more for her procedure than I might have done, I feel pleased. I did the right thing and that always feel good, for all of us.
I may forget and be dishonest in an hour. “Little white lies” are embedded in our culture and in my family of origin. But chalk one up – I did take one tiny step in the direction of my goal. I’m surprised by the warmth I feel inside for what I did – it’s not like it was that big of a deal.
I reflect often on this particular topic. Do we tell a woman when she asks that yes, that dress makes her look fat? Do you tell a man who asks, “Well, the reason I won’t date you is I don’t like mustaches and your breath is awful?” Do you wait until someone asks your opinion, or do you volunteer your truth, knowing that someone else might think the dress or the mustache looks great?
What’s your personal policy? Do you think it’s OK to lie if no one will find out? If it will prevent hurting someone’s feelings? If it gets you out of a sticky situation? Most grown-ups have figured out the world is not black-or-white, but most often gray. What do you think?