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On Honesty

Updated: Mar 10

A truly-loving couple walking in the city.

Honesty is a form of bravery. It is the courage to speak your truth, even when you are afraid of the consequences. It is a risk that we take to either be more understood by others or as a form of catharsis, to relieve ourselves of a burden that we have been carrying.

The response to honesty will vary depending on the nature of the people and how they receive and understand your words. Some people will appreciate your honesty, while others may be offended or hurt. It is important to remember that honesty is not always the easiest choice, but it is often the right one.

Honesty is usually a very appreciated trait in a person. People generally appreciate honesty and disdain intentional pretentiousness. However, there are cases where honesty can work against you. For example, if your honest words could cause harm to yourself or others, it may be better to tell a white lie.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to be honest or not is a personal one. There is no right or wrong answer, and the best course of action will vary depending on the situation.

North Korea, for example, forces its citizens to admire and glorify the current supreme leader of the country, and whenever that leader dies, they are forced to cry, even if they do not really admire the leader or feel like crying. In such a country, those who are honest in opposition to what the system dictates to say and behave are likely to be executed or sent to a concentration camp. If I am not mistaken, their families also receive punishment.

While most of us do not have to suffer the punishment of honesty that is against the "system," there are still, unfortunately, cases where the honest person is either bullied, stalked, harassed, whether online or in real life, and even the victim of death threats from anonymous callers, simply for expressing their personal truths.

Therefore, there are some people who will not go as far as expressing their thoughts and opinions in public, as they either fear or do not want to be victimized and/or put to shame by those who do not want people who think differently than them in their own and their society's lives.

The various possibilities of consequences can indeed show in theory that honesty is a form of bravery, whether that bravery is smart or counterproductive. It is an interpersonal bravery to put your words out there and risk being on the receiving end of a toxic treatment, whether you are in a totalitarian dictatorship, in a democracy, or on the internet.

However, as long as you surround yourself with caring, tolerant, and non-dangerous people, as much as you realistically can, you can increase the possibility that others will appreciate you for being honest with them and with yourself, rather than being cursed or bullied by those who dislike honesty that goes against their own, at least according to them.

What people should keep in mind, however, is that as long as one lives in a democracy, no one has the right to command people to keep things to themselves, when the law permits them to use the right of expression. If one has something to say in a democratic construct, they should not keep it to themselves when the very regime they live in is there to allow them the space to speak up.

The fact that it might displease some does not justify by itself telling people to shut up/be quiet.

This is why, while self-expression is a right in many countries and forums, it is still technically a courageous act to be honest, beyond what the norms "permit" us. If people were as "audacious" as Socrates to "corrupt" other people with his words, the world would surely be a safer place. It should not be as hard to implement, at least in most countries where democracy rules, as you will not be forced to drink wine with poison like that ancient philosopher did.

Pretentiousness should be condemned, as it leads to ignorance through deception, making honesty more superior, both morally and philosophically, as it keeps us closer to the truth and does not corrupt our perception of existence. The more honest people are, the less we will live in deceit and in ignorance.

The truth, as uncomfortable and triggering as it may be, is the only way to a broad and clearer view of the universe. Thus, in order to be a good philosopher, you must speak the truth whenever possible, since by doing so you're doing your job as an agent of truth. Even if it is uncomfortable, it should not matter as much as the severity of misleading your followers in the name of something inferior to the truth.

If you have done something wrong, you should come clean about it, as honesty is always preferable to your own image. This is why it is hard to trust politicians when you are an agent of truth, as the preservation of their image is far more important than reality if they wish to endure their role. Those who truly appreciate the truth will not desert you for coming clean, and thus they, as followers/readers, are better than those who appreciate their image of you more than your audacity of being brutally honest—even about yourself.

Finally, there is a saying in Hebrew: "A lie has no legs." No matter how effective your deception may be, it is likely that it will be discovered the more you continue down this path. Do you think you will be able to take your lies to the grave? They can still be discovered by others, even after your departure from this world. Then, your reputation will be stained forever. It is therefore a lesser severity to come clean and recognize your faults. After all, it is likely that everyone has them.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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