The Meaning of Honesty

Self-Awareness 101 Episode 21: The Meaning Of Honesty

Willard discusses the meaning and importance of becoming hypersensitive to your level of honesty. He explores how his past lies affected him and also offers a 24 hour challenge to raise ones awareness to how honest they are.

< EP 20: A List Of Excuses Vs. Results                  EP 22: Living In Gratitude > 

Subscribe: iTunes                                                      Download: Video / MP3 

Today, we're going to discuss the importance and meaning of honesty

Honesty should seem like such a simple word, it seems that the meaning of honesty should make sense to everybody. And what I've found over the years is that honesty can mean different things to different people. There are different levels of what people consider honesty and dishonesty. There are white lies, there is full disclosure, there is lying through omission, there is total transparency and there is blatant deception just as a few examples.

Jerry and I were talking in between filming these videos about what we wanted to come across in this episode, and I was sharing with him that the meaning of honesty I want to speak about, some of it will refer to the external communication aspects of honesty, but a big part of what I wanted to focus on, is the inside, our honesty with ourselves because I believe that this ultimately affects our outward level of honesty.

I was listening to a couple of people discussing a conversation that had occurred with a third individual, and what they were sharing was frustration at being lied to and how the one person felt that they were being taken advantage of by being deceived. The one who was feeling the frustration is the kind of person who is a very giving individual. He is very open in what he shares with others, and automatically expects that others are going to be open and honest with him. He is also a very trusting person and always looks for the best in people. For him, the meaning of honesty is that you are always open with others, and you do what you say that you are going to do. And he had just had some interactions where in the course of working with someone, and asking that the other person be honest in their commitment to help them both get the best result, he found out the other person was lying to him and when this happened he felt disappointment, a sense of betrayal and he also expressed that he felt that they were intentionally trying to take advantage of him in the process.

As I listened to him share this story, what struck me most was his friend's response. It really drove home what the importance of having a very clear meaning of honesty as it relates to self-awareness, meaning your ability of being aware of your level of honesty with yourself.

What she said to him was something along these lines, "I don't believe that people are intentionally trying to deceive or hurt you. I really think that people are being as honest as they can be. I believe the problem is they don't really know who they are. They are caught in their own confusion about who they believe they should be, how they think they are supposed to act which is often in conflict with who they desire to be. They're doing the best they can, but at their core they're not being honest with themselves. When you really aren't sure of who you are, that is going to affect how you think, speak and act. So if they aren't being honest with themselves, how can they ultimately be honest with you?”

As I listened to that story, I really had to think about her response. Again, with self-awareness being my focus. We’re more aware when we're dishonest with somebody we're speaking to than we are when we are being dishonest with ourselves. And I think we have different ways that we see the meaning of honesty. What is acceptable to one person, is not acceptable to another. And she was right, if I was not being honest with myself, if the foundation was weak, then how could I ever be honest with someone else?

Many times when we are being dishonest with someone else, we have a specific intention behind the dishonesty. There is something we want to gain, or something we want to hide. But along with the intentional misleading of others, a lot of times we have those moments of "knee jerk dishonesty". What I am referring to are those times when somebody asks you how you're doing and you don't really want to talk about it, so you don't answer them with an honest answer. You’ll be in turmoil of some kind and you’ll answer with something like, “I’m great” or the ever popular, “I’m fine.” Or someone asks you what you are doing and you say, "Nothing" when you really just didn't want to tell them.

So what is the importance of having a clear meaning of honesty for yourself? First I should say that the meaning of honesty to one person compared to the meaning for another can be quite different. I've been amazed at what people share with me when we are discussing what honesty is. And let me also share, that I was not always an honest person.

There was a point in my life where the meaning of honesty had become a foreign concept to me. Dishonesty was almost 100% of how I communicated. Actually, back when I was drinking and using drugs, I would lie so much that it got to the point where I didn't know the difference between the truth and the lie. I lied about who I was, what I did for a living, where I was going, where I had been even what my name was at times. I would lie when there was absolutely no logical reason to lie. Just because I wanted to make myself look a specific way to others.

As I've shared in these videos before, the beginning of my journey of self awareness was a life and death type of commitment. I had been living with a complete lack of concern for my own well-being for years, and the way I was acting out I was putting others at risk also. So when I was starting on this path of discovering why I had been doing what I was doing, and what I needed to do to change, I became hyper-sensitive to the suggestions I was given on what I steps I needed to take.

I asked people who had been down the same road as I had, "How do I change? HOW do I stop living this way?"

And their answer was, you just used the acronym,

Honesty, Open-mindedness, Willingness

At that point in my life, my meaning of honesty was so distorted that I truly thought that I was being honest. I really did. But the reality was that I was so caught up in the lies that I was telling people, that they had become my reality. I was living multiple lies, but was so unaware that I believed them myself.

As an example, I can remember one specific lie that I never had the ability to make amends for because I have not seen the person since I committed to this new way of living. But this is an example of how gross and distorted my life was.

At the time, I was running my own business in Baltimore, MD. I was getting money from customers in advance for jewelry that they were purchasing, and then spending the money on alcohol and drugs. I was really out of control at this point and started not being able to deliver on some of the merchandise that people had purchased. In this one instance, I went to one of my customers and said, "I'm going to have to go away for a while. I'm not going to be able to bring you that piece of jewelry that you ordered for about a month because I have leukemia and have to go to the hospital."

Now I had a lot of nosebleeds in my life at that time, and this person had seen that, but my nosebleeds definitely weren't from any disease. It was from the destructive lifestyle that I was living.

About a month later, I did get to a point where I was able to get the money to pay for the jewelry they had ordered. And when I went to deliver it, I ended up taking a friend of mine with me. Have you ever noticed when you start telling lies, how many other lies you have to tell to cover yourself? As we were driving to deliver the jewelry I'm thinking to myself, "Okay. When we show up, this customer is going to ask me, how I'm doing with my leukemia, and my friend sitting next to me, who's actually a good friend, doesn't know anything about it." So, I had to draw him into my little web of lies. I sat there and told him that I had been having trouble, and they thought it was leukemia and that this was going to be the first I saw my customer since having the tests. So I just kept lying and lying to cover myself.

The meaning of honesty that I had created for myself said that as long as I was gong to follow through at some point in the future, I was able to tell whatever story I needed to allow me to make it happen. Meaning that as long as the means justified the ends, it was not really being dishonest.

Telling someone I had a life-threatening disease. That's how far I was willing to go to cover up the things I was doing in my life. That was the person I was 25 years ago.

Today the meaning of honesty I adhere to is much different. I am a person who lives their life completely on the other end of the spectrum. People know me as someone who shares openly my belief that there are no such things as inconsequential lies.

Let me be clear, I'm not 100% honest; I don't believe anybody can be. If there are people who have achieved that level of honesty, I honor and respect them. I just know that for me I still haven't reached that point. But I do know that for me personally the meaning of honesty as it applies to my own communication has become much more clear. I will not intentionally lie to somebody. I will not make up an excuse to cover my tail. I will not lie for someone else. I still know those knee jerk lies come out at times, and the way I became aware of that is a dear friend of mine, his name is Gary King, does a workshop called, "The Power of Truth". As part of his presentation he challenged us, to go for 24 hours without telling one lie. You had to be 100% honest for those 24 hours. And you had to be aware not only of your level of honesty with other people, but also your level of honesty with yourself. He told us that it would open up our eyes to the meaning of honesty that we held for ourselves and how that definition affected how we were living. There couldn't be white lies; there couldn't be lies of omission, no intentional or unintentional deceptions. There couldn't be any dishonesty of any sort. If you were going to participate in the challenge, you had to commit to what Gary shared as the meaning of honesty which was being 100% honest with yourself and others for 24 hours.

Let me say that I learned a lot about myself in those 24 hours. Again, I wasn't being intentionally deceitful with people but I did realize those little things that I would say that aren't honest. At this point you're probably asking where I am going with this.

It's tying back to that original conversation that I was telling you about and the importance of being clear on your meaning of honesty. These two people were talking about the struggles and communications in relationships and in business. But it goes deeper than just your interactions with others.

This 24 hour challenge opened my eyes to the fact that if I'm not aware that I'm not being 100% honest with myself, how can I ever be 100% honest with you? By paying close attention to everything that I was saying and thinking for those 24 hours I had a very clear idea of how, without doing it intentionally, I was not being honest with people. I also became aware of how those little “inconsistencies” were affecting me on a mental, emotional, physical and spiritual level.

In the mid 1990’s, I actually had a relationship, an engagement, fall apart because at the beginning of the relationship when I was starting to tell this person that I loved them and that I wanted to build a relationship with them, as soon as the words would come out of my mouth there was that part of me that was asking, "Are you sure? You're just saying this because that's what she wants to hear." And I kind of just pushed those thoughts away telling myself, "That's just your fear of commitment. You're just scared of this new territory. Yeah, sure, I can do this, yes sure, I'm committed." The honest answer was, I wasn't. I was looking for acceptance. I was looking for certainty. I was looking to tell her what she wanted to hear.

A year later, things fell apart. Having built the foundation on dishonesty within myself, I was not able to live up to the commitment I made verbally. We had a complete breakdown in communication and in trust that destroyed the relationship, ended the engagement and ended the friendship. Along the way, that not only affected myself and my fiancé, but it also affected my daughter, my fiancé’s two sons and probably many others that I am not even aware of. I want to be clear; I don't blame her for that. I take responsibility myself, because I wasn't honest going into the relationship with her.

What is the importance of being clear on the meaning of honesty? The importance is that by becoming totally aware of what you define as the meaning of honesty, you then become acutely aware of what you say, think and believe so that you can be congruent with your commitments and your actions. Living at that level of honesty builds a foundation that is unshakable. When you are certain of who you are, and then you present yourself to others, you are completely aligned with that Identity. Being clear on the meaning of honesty is where it begins.

This self-awareness journey is not an easy one. It takes commitment. It takes a lot of soul searching. It takes a lot of examining and reevaluating the things you believe about yourself and the things you've been telling yourself for years that you bought into as truths, that really may not be true. As you progress, you may find things that used to be true for you, no longer are. This is natural.

So I'd like to wrap up this episode with the same challenge Gary King gave to me. First, define what the meaning of honesty is for you. Then based on your clear criteria, for the next 24 hours, I want you to be hyper-sensitive to your level of honesty, with yourself and with others.

When it is time to keep the commitment to yourself about getting healthy and you're thinking, "I can't go work out this morning." Notice how you start coming up with excuses to why you can't go. Are you being honest? Or are you simply lying to yourself to give yourself an excuse of not why to keep the commitment? Most rationalizations are just a form of justifying dishonesty.

When someone asks you, "How you're doing?" Are you just saying, “I’m fine" to avoid talking to them about what's really going on? I understand that there are some people that you are not going to want to share everything that is going on with you completely openly and honestly. But what I'm asking you to do is find a different way to respond, instead of than lying about it.

When I offer these ideas to people, I often encounter resistance. They ask, "Why are you talking about the meaning of honesty like no one knows what it means? Why are you making such a big deal out of it? Everybody lies sometimes."

Gary King also says and I agree with him this, “There is no such thing as an inconsequential lie." Whether it's a white lie, or whether it's a grandiose scheme. Any lie you tell has consequences. It has effects on your relationships, it has effects on your communication, it has effects on you mentally and emotionally, and it has effects on you physically because of the stress you're putting on yourself in being dishonest. Science shows that dishonesty has adverse affects at a cellular level and we will be exploring that in other articles on the web site.

Being clear on the meaning of honesty, then making a habit of being honest based on that definition is life transforming in many, powerful ways. That's what we're talking about in this journey of self-awareness. It's about becoming more aware, of who you are, and why you do what you do. By noticing when you are slipping into dishonest behavior, you can make the conscious choice to live more honestly. And in doing so, improve your state of mind, your health, your relationships and ultimately become an example for others of what living a life of honesty and integrity can lead to.

Again, for the next 24 hours I want you to focus on your level of honesty. With others, but also your level of honesty with yourself. That's where it begins.

I look forward to your feedback. I look forward to connecting with you again soon.

Take Care. 

< EP 20: A List Of Excuses Vs. Results                  EP 22: Living In Gratitude > 

Choose the Episode you would like to watch from the list below:

Self-Awareness 101 Series with Transcription Plus

Introduction To Self-Awareness 101:  To Inspire, Educate and Empower
SA 101 Episode 1:  The Importance of Developing Self-Awareness 
SA 101 Episode 2:  How to Truly Learn from Mistakes
SA 101 Episode 3:  To Soar, I Needed To Let Go Of The Past
SA 101 Episode 4:  The Meaning That We Give Things
SA 101 Episode 5:  Kind Words And Good Deeds Are Eternal
SA 101 Episode 6:  Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone
SA 101 Episode 7:  Two Most Powerful Words You'll Ever Say
SA 101 Episode 8:  Making Time For What's Truly Important
SA 101 Episode 9:  Expectations and Desires About How It Ought To Be
SA 101 Episode 10:  Tap Into The Sources Of The Universe
SA 101 Episode 11:  The Four Agreements
SA 101 Episode 12:  Courage-Being Scared But Saddling Up Anyways
SA 101 Episode 13:  The Power Of Belief Systems
SA 101 Episode 14:  Change Is Inevitable, Growth Is Optional
SA 101 Episode 15:  Establishing Personal Boundaries; It's OK To Say No
SA 101 Episode 16:  Encountering External Resistance To Change
SA 101 Episode 17:  Creating A Supportive Environment
SA 101 Episode 18:  Our Decisions Determine Who We Become
SA 101 Episode 19:  Personal Development Tests
SA 101 Episode 20:  A List Of Excuses Vs. Results
SA 101 Episode 21:  The Meaning Of Honesty
SA 101 Episode 22:  Living In Gratitude
SA 101 Episode 23:  Repetitive Patterns
SA 101 Episode 24:  Non-Verbal Cues
SA 101 Episode 25:  Be Brave Enough To Accept The Help Of Others
SA 101 Episode 26:  Positive Thoughts And Positive Intentions
SA 101 Episode 27:  Active Listening Skills
SA 101 Episode 28:  How Self-Awareness Relates To Spirituality
SA 101 Episode 29:  Positive Affirmations 
SA 101 Episode 30:  Basic Meditation Exercises
SA 101 Episode 31:  Personal Development At Work
SA 101 Episode 32:  Toxic Shame
SA 101 Episode 33:  Eliminating Clutter
SA 101 Episode 34:  How To Forgive Others
SA 101 Episode 35:  Self-Forgiveness
SA 101 Episode 36:  Deepening Self-Awareness
SA 101 Episode 37:  What Is Fear?
SA 101 Episode 38:  How To Overcome Fear
SA 101 Episode 39:  Dealing With Your Anger
SA 101 Episode 40:  How To Find Your Passion
SA 101 Episode 41:  Increasing Your Self-Awareness
SA 101 Episode 42:  How To Feel Deserving
SA 101 Episode 43:  How To Be A Humble Observer
SA 101 Episode 44:  Progress Not Perfection
SA 101 Episode 45:  Expectations And Perfectionism
SA 101 Episode 46:  Dealing With Anger
SA 101 Episode 47:  Taking Responsibility For Yourself
SA 101 Episode 48:  Achieving Higher Consciousness
SA 101 Episode 49:  Trust Life
SA 101 Episode 50:  Being Skeptical
SA 101 Episode 51:  Benefits Of Closure
SA 101 Episode 52:  The Final Episode 

Jump HOME from Meaning Of Honesty 

For more on personal development and self-awareness visit the Article Archive

Also enjoy our series of free videos Self-Awareness 101

Explore the deeper meanings of more Inspirational Quotes

Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Your Daily Life Coach.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.