If you conduct your life on the basis of truth and honesty, it gives you a sense of satisfaction and self-confidence. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
Let’s start by looking at this from the other direction. What satisfaction do you get from telling a lie, or being dishonest? Perhaps there’s a momentary thrill of not getting caught (yet), but is that truly a satisfying experience? And do you get any self-confidence, except perhaps for those who look to lying and dishonesty as a profession? Most likely not.
So this quote seems to be about living a life of which you can be proud, and stating that the foundation for that life are the values of truth and honesty. I have never met anyone who has never lied, nor have I ever met anyone who had never been dishonest. I consider it a natural human failing.
However, we have the opportunity to select truth and honesty. I believe that the satisfaction and self-confidence is based on human desires that go beyond borders and beyond cultures. It is, to me, a fulfillment of a basic human need, and therefore satisfying. Repetition of satisfaction results in self-confidence.
Why is honesty important?
Truthfulness and honesty, while having slightly different definitions, are sufficiently similar for the purposes of this post. It is easy for some to dismiss honesty as something for the well-off to practice in their leisure, but not applicable to those in survival situations. I would have you consider the inner city gang, and their approach to honesty.
Even in situations where an inner city gang may laud lying and dishonesty to those they oppose, they are almost always ruthless to those within the gang who are not truthful and honest to the gang. So, with those caveats, even the inner city gangs value honesty.
In even more desperate situations, tribal warlords working hard just to find food, there are few things more valuable than loyalty, and no stronger a pillar within the house of loyalty than honesty. They might treat outsiders as people to take advantage of, but very few social structures can withstand dishonesty from within.
Where can I apply this in my life?
It would be easier, I think, to ask the opposite “where can’t I apply this in my life?” I believe that honesty and truth belong in everything you do, in everything you say, in everything you think, at all times. I see only the narrowest of windows for being less than honest.
Besides trying to explain what the two dogs are doing in the yard over there, and dodging the eternal bane of male existence (does wearing ‘this’ make me look fat?), there are almost no good reasons for not being honest with others.
Oh, there are plenty of excuses, and some reasons (but never any good reasons) that people will give for not being honest. Yes, there are times in negotiations where you might withhold some information as part of a bargaining strategy, but that’s assuming a win-lose mentality, isn’t it?
Take a moment and consider when and how your life would be easier if others would just be honest with you. Honest about their objectives and motives. You might even find that, for a while, your paths are the same, and cooperation would help both of you get what you wanted or needed in a quicker and easier manner.
I thought of a couple dozen situations in about five minutes time, how about you? Did you come up with at least a few situations in your past where a little honesty up front would have made life easier for everyone? Wouldn’t that have been nice?
Now take a moment and consider how many times you might have been the person who could have been a little more honest with someone else, and made both your lives easier? How many times in the past have you come up with?
Consider which situations in your life today might fall into that category? How many people are guessing what your motivations are? Would it help everyone to take a moment to get them up to speed on what your motivations are?
Yes, there is a chance that some of the people will be less than pleased at what is revealed, but others may let you know what they were trying to get as well, and all may benefit. You will have to weigh each situation on it’s own merits, but I would encourage you to consider it, sooner rather than later.
As I have become more open and honest with others, I have found it does give satisfaction. It is very satisfying to know someone is doing something for the same reason you are, and that you didn’t have to trick them into doing it for you. Each success has also helped with my self-confidence, making the next time that much easier.
As always, your mileage may vary, but I encourage you to try. As with life, there are no guarantees, and from time to time, this will blow up in your face. You then have a choice, learn from your mistake, or harden your heart.
I prefer learning, myself. That was honest, and it was satisfying. Try it, you may find you like it.