It is always helpful to remain honest and truthful in the face of difficulty. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
To me, this quote speaks of the challenge we face when the going gets tough. What will we do, and what should we do?
That is even more important to answer when the answers are not the same. It can be tempting to blame others when things go wrong. But falsehoods do not result in the best long-term answers.
While not always the best for us in the short term, being honest and truthful not only shows us to be role models for behavior under stress, but help clarify what went wrong.
It is difficult to learn a lesson when the facts have been obscured by lies and deceit.
Why is honesty important?
Dishonesty, as inferred above, steals from the future. It hides the lesson which should have been learned from our eyes. Yes, it might reduce the pain or blame you suffer, but it also makes life more difficult for others who might mistake what was said for the truth. And there is also the feeling guilt.
I imagine that’s how a lot of ghost stories and early superstitions began. Something happened, and no one wanted to accept the consequences, so it was blamed on a ghost, an evil spirit, or an angry god. Pretty soon, everything that went wrong, every difficulty, every challenge, was blamed on these things.
How will anyone ever learn to plan, to anticipate, or to persevere when everything which is difficult, goes wrong, or any kind of a challenge is blamed on supernatural forces? It will be difficult, won’t it? So the first step to breaking such an entanglement is to tell the truth, to be honest, even if it is difficult.
From heliocentric models of the solar system to a broken lamp or window. Being other than honest, being full of lies instead of truth, that won’t advance anything but the worst results. The tougher it is, the more desperately it needs to be done. It will not always be pleasant, but it is always necessary.
Where can I apply this in my life?
We won’t all have the opportunity to tell the Grand Inquisition that the Earth does, in fact, revolve around the Sun (which Galileo recanted under duress), we can take smaller steps in our own lives. We can be honest and truthful, even when the consequences will be unpleasant.
Remember that after Galileo recanted, it was decades before the tide began to swing back towards the truth. I don’t blame him, though. His life was at stake, and that makes second-guessing the choices of another basically impossible. It is easy to say what is correct while safe, but quite another when death waits by your side.
However, when the Police pull you over for going a little too fast, what will you learn if you lie and they let you go? Will that become a habit? Will this habit lies begin to corrode your integrity? Is this a road which you wish to walk? Where will it lead, if you cannot be truthful in difficult times?
Yes, getting a speeding ticket isn’t pleasant, and could be considered a difficulty, but a pattern of truthfulness is a useful and beneficial to both you and to others who might observe you and desire to emulate you. Even in the little things, people notice how others behave.
If you don’t believe that doing the right thing in difficult times can gain you a great number of people who wish to emulate you, consider the martyrs, both religious and political. Both Gandhi and MLK lost their lives being honest and speaking the truth despite the dangers.
Again, I’m not saying that getting yourself killed is the proper path. I cannot tell you that, only you can decide. However, rarely are we put in that position. Instead of that big thing, we are surrounded by little things. Many minor difficulties present themselves every day. What will we do?
Think of all the little difficulties which presented themselves yesterday, or last week. If you can’t find any, and don’t recall lying about any, you probably have already taken this quote to heart. If not, what could you have done differently? What would the consequences have been?
That is the question we must ask ourselves each day, in each difficult situation. What will being honest and truthful cost us? We must also ask what will being dishonest and untruthful cost us, as well as what it will cost others. Our actions, after all, do have consequences.
What do you intend to do the next time you are faced with a difficult situation? How will you build your resolve, and do better each time?