Honesty is such a lonely word

Singer and songwriter Billy Joel in the song entitled Honesty, writes the lyrics beautifully of a highly principled, ethical and moral dilemma.  While the whole song speaks about honesty in relationships related to love, the chorus talks about the quality of being honest and how lonely the word is.

Honesty is such a lonely word

Everyone is so untrue

Honesty is hardly ever heard

And mostly what I need from you

Some people purport “white lies” or “little lies” for fear of hurting others with the truth.  When a spade is called a spade, when the cruel reality is revealed in spite its consequences, honesty may sometimes hurt but will be appreciated much.

People often confuse honesty for truthfulness.

Honesty is about expressing your opinions and feelings accurately.  Truth is an accurate representation of reality. Both words don’t have to balance each other always. One can completely be honest yet be untruthful.

A schizophrenic can be honest about their fear of the ghost they see in the corner of their room every night.  The truth is, there’s nothing there.

When you are called by the principal of your child’s school because he beat up another child, and your kid says the other child “started the fight”, he’s being totally honest about his opinion.  The other child had called him out for being an ass, your kid got angry and hit his classmate with the algebra book on the face. But in reality, in truth, your child started the fist fight.  We usually will protect our offsprings and we won’t believe that our kid started the fight.  You can always say that your child was being honest. In truth, he started the fight.

Dr. Jeremy Sherman, writes in Psychology Today (Aug 1, 2018), about the difference between honesty and truth.  He emphasizes that the failure to recognise the difference leaves one exposed and gullible.

Gullibility is largely a product of failing to notice the difference between honest opinion and truth.  You may recognise the difference, but we’re all gullible in the company of people who share our honest opinions.

We’re much more likely to spot a fraud who disagrees with us than one who’s on the same page.  We’re much more likely to notice that honesty and truth are different when someone’s honest opinion conflicts with ours; but when someone’s feelings and opinions are just like ours, we’re both in touch with the truth. How could we not be? We both agree? That’s a consensus!

Why do we mistake honesty for truth when we’re on the same page? Because all tend to see ourselves as the standard for the truth about reality.  We assume we’re unbiased.  When we’re with like-minded people, they must be unbiased, too – in direct contact with the truth.

Thinking that we’re the unbiased measure of all truth is why more exes are diagnosed as narcissists by their former partners than there are true narcissists.  Their former partners assume that being loving and attentive to them is the true standard.  If someone fails by that “unbiased” standard, they must, in truth, be narcissists.

What Sherman writes about is the complicated truth.  Sadly, many see themselves as the measure of all things.  Everyone is suddenly a genius or a the gold standard of knowledge.  Anything that veers away from the standard of your opinion is biased.  Because you feel you’re the gold standard.

At any point in our lives, whether it is in the political arena or a battle of relationships and love or getting ahead in the business circle or academic honesty, it’s a fair reminder that you cannot expect loyalty from people who cannot even give you honesty.

It’s a paradigm shift that not many can handle. Ask the politician whose family is running for various positions in politics.  It’s like the story of the schizophrenic. He tells you to believe in his fantasies and fairy tales and empty promises, when in truth there is none.

If you want to be trusted, just be honest.