Friday, February 1, 2013

Character Building: Honesty

I talked about integrity as my favorite characteristic last time. Another characteristic that goes hand-in-hand with integrity is “honesty.”

To my humiliation, honesty was the hardest of the characteristics for me to muster when I was younger. I didn’t have to lie about myself and what I did or didn’t do, but I did.

I think it was because I was not happy with who I was. I was a somewhat overweight, shy, kid. I found it hard to make a lot of friends. But there I go again, not being completely honest! I have been blessed with a number of great, close, committed friends in my life. A handful of those I still count as my dearest friends. They had the insight to see through the tales I told of myself and love me anyway! Truly, they imitated God in this way.

So, to be honest, I felt like I couldn’t make friends unless I became someone I wasn’t. So I would invite stories about myself, thinking my real life was boring or ordinary. As I pause to look back over my life, it really has been anything but ordinary! But I couldn’t see the truth of that at the time.

As I strive to be a man of integrity, I know that honesty is going to have to be a huge part of this goal.

No more lies. No more dishonesty. I know (now) that lies catch up with you eventually. No matter how vociferous the denial, the truth always comes out in the end. Sometimes it is a relief. Because it is true that it is easier on the brain to tell the truth – because you don’t have to remember anything when you tell the truth! But sometimes when the truth comes to light, it is devastating. “I’m not hurting anyone but myself” is rarely – if ever – true, especially when being dishonest.

Now, having said “no more lies” I think something needs to be said about prudence and “speaking the truth in love.”

Can I be honest when my wife asks me “do these pants make my butt look fat?” (And for the record, she never asks me this question – it’s just a hypothetical here.) What if they really do? It wouldn’t be prudent to tell her that. For one reason, it would hurt her feelings. Another reason, she would probably hurt me!

While honesty is always the best policy, it is also important to remember that God’s Word tells that should speak the truth “in love” (Ephesians 4:15). I realize my hypothetical situation is wrought with danger. I realize that it would just be easier to “tell a white lie” in this situation. It will also spare my wife’s feelings (and my head). But remember “integrity”? It can be defined as “doing the right thing even when doing the wrong thing is easier.”

In situations like my hypothetical, it is going to take some effort to avoid hurting someone’s feelings while, at the same time, speaking the truth. Love has so much to do with it. How I talk to my wife – to anyone, really – should be deeply rooted in my relationship with them and with God. When I overlook that particular truth, then it will be very hard to speak the truth in love.

Being honest and living honestly will develop a person in a true man or woman of character as well as a true man or woman of God. It will almost never be easy. But it will be possible, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us through God’s Word. The more we immerse ourselves in the truth of God’s Word, the more we’ll be able to speak the language of truth and live a life of truth.

It will also take courage, but that’s a whole new topic – one we’ll explore next time.

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