Living HonestlyMonday, March 6, 2006
I was given an assigment to spend three days living 100% honestly. No fibs, no exaggerating, no cheating, no stealing. The following are my thoughts:
The last three days have been a challenge. Not because it was hard to stop telling lies. Not because it was hard to stop breaking the law. It was hard to consciously realize I was even committing these dishonest acts. Going into this ?challenge? I figured I?d simply watch my words and make sure I let that certain someone know that she did indeed look fat in those jeans. In reality, it wasn?t until maybe five, ten minutes after being dishonest that I even realized it. I tried hard, I really did. But, far more effort is required to establish a new habit than that which is necessary to revert back to the established ones. In other words, it was much harder to even realize I was speeding and breaking the law than it was to drive my typical style at my natural speed (nearly ten over). And that was just day one?
I started out the first morning letting people near me know that I was going to be completely honest for the next three days. This was greeted with ?does that mean I can ask you anything? type questions. Naturally I informed them that this was the case because being dishonest also includes withholding information. Some questions were a bit embarrassing but luckily the novelty quickly wore off. I figured that this was going to be the extent of my three-day period. I was sadly mistaken. As I went throughout my day I noticed there were plenty of opportunities to stretch the truth and exaggerate, but I consciously chose not to. For example, when telling a story about the weekend an opportunity presented itself more than once. I realized, though, that this act is considered ?dishonest?.
As the days went on I realized I was more and more ?dishonest? in everyday interactions. For instance, I sometimes like to shrug off conversations and dismiss ?How are you?? with ?fine? and ?What?s new?? with ?not much?. But, after the first few conversations I realized these were all dishonest answers. In fact, funny as it may be, I started having some more fulfilling chats with friends. I actually had to come up with a response and tell people about my day. In some cases it was pretty rewarding.
As far as driving was concerned though, this was my weakest area. I couldn?t help but get in the fast lane every time I drove to Boulder. Once I was in it I realized the flow was moving around 70 to 75 (especially down the hill). It always took a minute to realize what I was doing and that I should slow down. Even if this meant an additional minute or two would pass before I arrived at my destination. I learned, though, that the time spent breaking the law (by speeding) was hardly worth it. The extra minute or two on the road meant safer driving conditions and an extra song for me to listen to.
On the third day a number of people were asking me if I was going to a mutual friend?s house that evening. I replied that I simply had stuff to do at home. I even said I was going to stick around and hang out with my roommates. I felt guilty. I just didn?t want to go out at the time. I didn?t want to be honest about this fact though. I ended up willingly being dishonest. I just couldn?t bring myself to outwardly telling someone I didn?t want to enjoy their company. Truth be told, that?s usually not the case. In general, I really enjoy being with people. It just so happens that, due to a number of things, I didn?t feel like being very social. That seemed very hard to explain at the time. I gave in though.
After the second phone call I decided I needed to go see my friends that evening. I went out, saw everyone, and spent a few hours in Boulder; it was refreshing. Yet, when people asked if I was having fun, it was hard to give a straight answer. If I say ?no? they then ask ?why?? and ?what?s wrong?? but if I simply say ?yes? I?m being dishonest to merely avoid a barrage of follow-up questions.
I?ve read that it takes something like a month for a new habit to become permanent. I?m willing to try this for as long as I can. If anything I?ll become even more aware of how I interact with people and society. Even if I still speed a little in the fast lane I feel that I can still lead an honest life. Despite some ?white lies?, I feel that, in some cases, being dishonest is the lesser of two evils. As I mentioned, there could be dozens of cases where I didn?t even realize I was being dishonest. Many times I stopped and realized that what I had said earlier was exactly what I was supposed to be avoiding. This is no simple task.
I think I do a lot of these dishonest things because I feel they hurt no one else. This may or may not be true. What if one night I decide I don?t want to hang out with my friends or my family because I?m preoccupied with something else? In that case I tell a harmless lie, say I?m sick, and leave early. It?s my loss. From there I decide to drive home in the fast lane on highway 36. Again, I?m being dishonest and breaking the law but hurting no one but myself.
Well, I didn?t hurt anyone until the guy in front of me suddenly has stops and I have no where to else to go but (very quickly) straight into him. Suppose that?s the end of me. Who lives did those lies just touch?
I realize this example is beyond extreme. But, despite the difficulty, I?ve realized it?s best to be honest in everything I say and do. I also realize being candid about this demonstrates the fact that, yes: I live a somewhat dishonest life. Unfortunately, when I keep things from people or mislead them they have a reason to stop trusting me. Luckily, they don?t necessarily know it (yet). To me, trust is important and I plan to avoid doing anything that would jeopardize it.
In reality, how honest are you?