Honesty has been providing long-term benefits since the beginnings of human communication. It makes life easier and more efficient, in part, because a person only has to maintain one version of reality. (An habitual liar has to remember and keep track of several conversations supporting fictional realities.) Being honest has business, social, and health benefits. Democracy is founded on honest communications, which explains our government’s current situation.
A study on the health benefits of being honest was done by two researchers at Notre Dame. Starting with the understanding that the average American tells eleven lies a week. (This number varies from culture to culture. Some Asian cultures emphasize harmony over honesty.) Fifty-five people were instructed to stop lying about major and minor issues. Another fifty-five people were given no instructions, and were used as the base group, for comparison. Their study showed the the experiment group had noticeable improvements in their physical and mental health. It would seem humans are wired to tell the truth, and when they don’t, it takes a physical and mental toll.
From a social perspective, friends and family come to trust you over the long haul. Some of these people will become friends over time. The bottom line is, people who are honest have more friends, the relationships tend to last longer, and may never “formally” end. (Consider how many friends “you” have, who lie to you on a regular basis.)
Would you, knowingly, hire a contractor who had a reputation for taking deposit, and then never showing up to do the work? Having a reputation for honesty in the business world doesn’t make a business person golden. They still have to know what they’re doing. (Honesty with yourself requires an understanding of your skills and experience.)
Children often lie defensively, and since their understanding of reality is somewhat limited, we generally forgive them. Teenagers will sometimes do the same thing, but are not as easily forgiven. Adults have no excuse for defensive lying. (Although, to be fair, I suspect we’re all a little guilty of this. Very few of us are perfect.) A child’s defensive lying may gradually evolve into manipulative lying, which is why it’s a good idea to curtail defensive lying.
This is the worst kind of lying. It is deliberate and planned. This is the kind of lying used by the contractor who rips off people’s deposits. It’s also the kind of lying used in deceitful romances.
This is habitual lying. Lying has become so common place for the individual they have started losing touch with reality, and are no longer certain of what the truth is. In many cases, the the liar will believe whatever they are saying.
Honesty is the Best Policy
The old cliché has been proven to be true, and is a good way to live life. Granted, a philosophy of honesty might eliminate some short-term profits, and requires a certain amount of courage, but it can also lead to a life well-lived. Something lying will never lead to.