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Honesty - Its relevance today.

Honesty - Its relevance today.

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Published by Swami Vedatitananda
What is Honesty? Is it relevant for us today? An essential read for youths.
What is Honesty? Is it relevant for us today? An essential read for youths.

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Published by: Swami Vedatitananda on Aug 17, 2013
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Morality is indispensable for human development. It is generally believed that morality isinvariable based on religious dogma. We need to be moral only because such and such a divine person said so in such and such a scripture. Morality therefore has come to mean somethingentirely religious. However, morality is an intrinsic necessity in human beings, irrespective of religious sanction. Many centuries ago, the Chinese philosopher Mencius hinted at this truth. Inrecent history, Swami Vivekananda has clearly worked out an entire system of Morality &Ethics, based purely on the nature of man, totally independent of religious dogma. [Please see thearticle "
 Morality & Ethics in Vedanta, according to Swami Vivekananda
" by the present author for more details.]Morality comprises a host of human qualities & virtues. But the most visible of them allis Honesty. Honesty is therefore a cardinal virtue. It is one of the most basic virtues needed to build our character. When we speak of human evolution, or human civilisation, what we actuallymean is the manifestation of virtues like honesty in society. Let us try to understand this vitalhuman quality in greater detail.The popular dictionaries of English language give various definitions of this word. Wegive below some of them:The
defines honesty as follows: Honesty refers to a fact of moral character &connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness & straightforwardness,including straightforwardness of conduct, along with absence of lying, cheating or theft.Furthermore, honesty means being trustworthy, loyal, fair & sincere.The
Merriam-Webster Dictionary
further adds: Adherence to facts.
includes in its definition: It refers to the quality of being honest;uprightness & fairness, truthfulness, sincerity or frankness.
adds: If you tell the truth, you are honest.In Sanskrit, the word for honesty is
. It is derived from the word
means thatwhich exists. The nature of existence lends its quality to words that talk about them. Hence theword for honesty is
. Therefore honesty means talking about or thinking about that whichexists.
Honesty is black & white, not shades of grey:
In common parlance, this
word has today come to mean „
speaking about facts, or 
representing facts, as plainly as possible, without altering them in any way.‟
While this is thegeneral meaning, the scope of this word is not restricted to this meaning alone. We need tounderstand as many aspects of this deep word as we possibly can. A person who understands allthe ramifications of the concept of honesty and exhibits that quality is a genuinely honest man.Quite often, we see persons who speak the truth only because they were not sufficiently bright tounderstand the facts in their entirety. Hence, simpletons are many times classified as honest persons. There is a thin line between naivety is honesty.While the word honesty has many different connotations, based on various contexts of itsuse, it however stands for very specific ideas and norms of human behaviour. Seldom can wehave situations which fall in between honesty & dishonesty. Things are either in one domain, or in the other. Never can they be in between. American President Herbert Hoover once said,"There is no such thing as a no-man's land between honesty & dishonesty." The famous
industrialist John F Dodge said, "There is no twilight zone of honesty. A thing is either right or wrong. It is black or white. Never is it grey!"We shall therefore try to understand the various aspects of this subtle concept presently.
Honesty with respect to human dealings:
Honesty is essential in daily human dealings. Imagine the anxiety in dealing with a person who is a known liar. We cannot depend on his words. He says one thing and meanssomething totally different. Such people are untrustworthy.
Honesty as integrity:
One of the most important things needed for a meaningful life is being realistic. We needto stay in touch with what is real. The present day society is slowly drifting away from reality.People live in all sorts of make-believe worlds now. This is because of the diluting of honesty indaily life. There is a popular saying attributed to an anonymous source which says, '
There is arare human quality that is called honesty when considered with respect to inter-human relations,and the very same quality is called Integrity when considered with respect to a person dealing with oneself.
' What this means is as follows: we generally consider a particular person as beinghonest if he always speaks the truth when talking to & dealing with other people. But what aboutthe way a person deals with himself? Supposing a person makes a resolve to himself that he willwake up from sleep at a particular time and cannot keep it up. How do we classify him? Such a person lacks integrity. His thoughts and deeds are at variance. Although he may always speak thetruth to others, he however breaks the promises he makes with himself! And that is alsodishonesty, of a very serious nature.
Honesty is more than mere words:
While the concept of honesty certainly started out as concerning the spoken word, it later on grew large enough to envelop human thought and human action too. Thus, it was not enoughif a person
the truth. He had to
in certain ways and
in certain specific ways. Onlythen was he considered as being honest. For instance, consider a man who may cheat in a business deal, say, a shopkeeper who short sells things. Notice that we are not considering hisspeech anymore. Since he uses wrong scales and short sells his commodities, we call himdishonest. Consider the famous instance of the common politician. He may speak very correctly.He may depict the facts very truthfully. But, we still consider him a dishonest person mainly because
his actions are not in consonance with his words
Honesty & role of euphemisms in language:
Many ideas are taboos in society. The more the taboos, the more repressed the society becomes and the more distorted the persons living in that society become. As an idea becomestaboo, we start inventing different words and terminologies to sugar-coat our words. We startusing high-sounding words and try to hide the meaning of the words and we feel comfortablewith all this! In the 1
World War, there was a word to describe the extreme nervous condition
that soldiers faced on the battlefield. It was called „
‟. The words themselves clearly
describe the terrible condition of the
During the 1950s, it became „
 Battle- fatigue
‟. Then during the Vietnam War, it became „
 PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 
‟. Now, we don‟t even understand what this means anymore! Being honest therefore helps in
conveying the meaning more easily and to most people involved. The need for euphemism partially arises from the trade-off between being honest and being genteel or cultured. Manytimes, an honest man is considered brusque, uncultured and uncouth. But, in our opinion, beinghonest is any day a better alternative to being the opposite! George Bernard Shaw once very popularly said, "
Words can be used to convey the truth as forcefully as they can be used toconceal the truth.
Need of honesty:
Where is the need of being honest? The need is acutely felt in human dealings. The needis urgently felt in building a better personality for ourselves. By being dishonest, we create analternate reality. This world where we live is already sufficiently complicated. We need notcomplicate it further by adding our version of things to it. Keep it simple. Stick to facts.There is a growing cry we hear these days that we need to be immoral or dishonest to acertain degree in order to survive in today's world. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Weneed not be bothered about the morality of the Government, or the Corporate World, or even of our neighbour. What we do need to seriously consider is the moral standards we fix for our ownlives. Thomas Carlyle, one of the founding fathers of America said, "
 Make yourself an honest man. Then you may be sure there is one rascal less in the world!
"And one more thing has to be remembered. Even the most corrupt person would seek thecompany of honest persons and not of corrupt ones! Just because the Govt is corrupt or thecorporate world is corrupt doesn't mean that we can afford to be so. Even today, when collegestudents are interviewed for job-hiring, honesty & integrity of the student are given vitalimportance by all HR personnel. In fact, job-recruiters lay great emphasis on the moral character of the young men that they recruit.
Honesty as Business-integrity:
There is a wonderful story in this regard attributed to Sir C V Raman. He was asked bythe British Govt to set up a Physics Research Laboratory in Bangalore. Many research assistantshad to be recruited. After interviewing potential candidates, Raman and his directors retired totheir rooms for their lunch. There was a knock on his door. He opened it. A young man wasstanding there. He gave Sir Raman a fifty rupee note [this was in the 1930s; fifty rupees was a big amount then], and said, "Sir, I collected my travelling allowance after my interview. When Iwent out and counted the cash, I found that I was paid fifty rupees extra. When I went back toreturn it, I found that the cash counter was closed. The cashier must have gone for his lunch. Ihave a train to catch to return home. Sir, I am giving this money back to you." Sir Raman saw theyoung man for a moment and said, "Young man, you need not return home. I have selected youfor the job of Research Assistant. Meet me an hour later in my office." After his lunch, heannounced to his directors that he had selected this young man. Some of them objected to hishasty decision saying that the particular young man was not very good in Physics and that therewere better candidates from whom the selection could have been made. Sir C V Raman repliedfamously, "
Well, I can teach him Physics, but I can't teach him honesty. And he already has that quality!
"Swami Vivekananda used to emphasise repeatedly, "Be perfectly pure in moneydealings...Integrity in Business matters, we are yet to learn in India."

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An essential read for youths today. Answers their question on the relevance of honesty in daily life in the present world.
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