The Virtue of Honesty

By Engr. Carlos Cornejo

“Honesty is such a lonely word; everyone is so untrue” goes the lyrics of the song of the same title by Billy Joel.  It is so true indeed that the virtue of honesty has suffered so much beating nowadays because of the proliferation of fake news.  There are news publishers who are willing to sacrifice the truth just to advance their agenda, so much so that you get to wonder, if people are willing to tell a lie or half-truths in public, how much worse would they tell a lie in private?

There is an evangelical pastor who goes around the university campuses in the U.S. trying to convert atheist students and professors who have totally abandoned their belief in a God.  This protestant minister would ask these people if they have told a lie in their lives and many would readily admit yes.  And yet when he would ask them if they think they are a good person they would also say yes.  But the evangelical minister would follow them up with a question, “If someone tells a lie, what do you call that person?”  “A liar” of course, they would answer.  “So, does that make you a good person?”  The people asked would become silent and later on shake their heads. This connects me to the same case when there was a survey made here in the Philippines asking Filipinos, “If you die today, do you think you will go to heaven?”  And a great majority would say yes.  It was found out that many would say yes because they think they are good persons.  And this definition of a good person goes something like “we’ll I’ve never physically or verbally hurt anybody, I am honest most of the time in my dealings with others, I pay the right amount of jeepney fare, I am generally polite and respectful, therefore I am a good person and deserving of heaven.”  Majority forget that this definition refers only to our horizontal dealings.  Horizontal dealings mean our relationship with our fellow humans.  We often forget that we also have a vertical dealing and that dealing refers to our relationship with God.  And in that relationship, much is left to be desired.  Only saints would go straight to heaven when they die.  And we are far from holiness. And it’s good to decide now to attain this ideal that God has commanded us to “Be holy because I am holy” (1 Pet 1:16) for this is what we are meant to be, why God has created us humans in the first place, and this is likewise the very meaning of our life here on earth, to become saints.

Honesty is telling the truth at all times unless charity or love for others dutifully refrains us from doing so.  In every rule there is always an exception.  We don’t have to tell the truth right away if a person is diagnosed with a cancer and might not be ready to hear the bad news.  We don’t have to tell the truth to someone who has no business of knowing it.  Problems within the family for example need not be broadcasted in public.  The same thing with the so-called “silence of office” which is not to tell the truth on some things related to our work because it would be detrimental to the business of the company we work for.  And if you are a parent, teacher, public official, or a news publisher you have a greater burden and accountability to tell the truth because many people would be misled if you don’t.

Telling the truth is so important that our Lord Jesus Christ identifies himself with it.  “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  (John 14:6) There is a great malice in being untruthful that Christ would call the devil the “Father of lies” because that is the fundamental reason why Satan became Satan who use to be a good angel and later on rebelled against God wanting to believe his lie that he is his own god.  Honesty is not only the best policy but makes us more like God and the saints who are lovers of the truth.