I’ve had the chorus of Honesty by Billy Joel running around in my head for the past two days. For those of you who haven’t heard this song, the chorus is as follows:
Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.
I can’t remember the last time I heard this song, other than just in my head. I know it’s been a really, really long time, since it is not on the one Billy Joel CD I own and I don’t listen to the radio much. So I start to wonder to myself why this chorus is stuck in my head.
I don’t know that I am as cynical about honesty as Billy Joel is in this song. I think it is a virtue that many people admire and aspire to. But there is certainly an abundance of dishonesty in our world. Being trained as a lawyer, I’ve seen plenty of dishonesty. I’m NOT suggesting that all lawyers are dishonest, or even a majority, but there is a subset of lawyers who think that is their job.
When I was in law school, I took a class on arbitration, mediation, and negotiation. One negotiation exercise by the students yielded vastly different sale prices for some fictitious paintings, even though all students started with the same information with which to negotiate the price. During the discussion of the exercise one student stated, “Of course I lied for my ‘client.’ That’s a lawyer’s job.” I was flabergasted by that statement then, and still saddened that there are lawyers who believe that today. Thankfully they are in the minority.
But the professional realm is not the only place we find dishonesty. Often we are not even honest with ourselves. (If I’m being honest, I used “we” instead of “I” in this sentence so I can spread the blame around a bit and not feel like I’m the only one with this problem. If you are always completely honest with yourself, feel free to leave yourself out of this generalization.) We do something we know we shouldn’t, then rationalize why it was okay or why we should be excused from doing it.
For me, I have a particular “thing” in mind, though I’m not quite ready to be honest with the world about it. I’m working on being honest with myself about it. If recent experience of being honest with myself is indicative of the results, I should jump right on that, because it is very freeing. “The truth will set you free.” John 8:32.
This past summer I did something (again, I’m not going to share the details) that I knew I shouldn’t do. But instead of rationalizing why it was okay, I honestly examined why I had done it and learned from my mistake. I shared what I had done with those who were immediately impacted by my actions and whom I needed to be honest with. The results were amazing. I feared anger and resentment. I received love and forgiveness. And all because I was honest.
Honesty really is the best policy. Especially being honest with ourselves and those who love us. It makes relationships stronger.