Once upon a time on the outskirts of a big city stood an old temple where young boys would come to live and learn from an old monk. One day the monk gathered his students and told them: “I am growing old and slow. I can no longer provide for the needs of the temple as I once did. I want you to go into the city and follow the rich people. When no one is looking – and only when no one is looking – you must steal their purses. That way we will have enough money to keep our school alive.”
The boys said in disbelief: “But master, you have taught us that it is wrong to steal.”
The monk replied: “It would be wrong to steal if it were not absolutely necessary. Just remember, you must not be seen!”
The boys looked nervously among themselves and quietly began to leave. However, one student remained so the monk asked him, “Why did you not go with the others?”
“I heard master,” said the boy quietly. “But you said that we had to steal without being seen. I know that there is no place on Earth that I would not be seen, for I would always see myself.”
“Excellent!” exclaimed the monk. “That is just the lesson I hoped my students would learn. Run and tell your friends to return to the temple before they get us into trouble.”
Honesty is and will always be the best policy. Telling the truth at all times matters in so many ways, from building your reputation to improving your relationships. Your word has to be your bond.
Maybe that is why Thomas Jefferson said, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
Or take a page from our first President, George Washington, who famously said he could not tell a lie when asked about the newly hewn cherry tree. Honest Abe Lincoln was also a paragon of truthfulness. As we celebrate Presidents’ Day, these are role models to uphold.
Honesty, ethics, integrity, values, morals are interchangeable because they all convey the single attribute that determines whether a person or an organization can be trusted. If truth ever stands in your way, you are headed in the wrong direction.
Every time dishonesty wins, it gets harder to convince our children that honesty is the best policy. Complete honesty in little things is not a little thing at all.
Sam Rayburn, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was once asked: “Mr. Speaker, you see probably a hundred people a day. You tell each one, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ or ‘Maybe.’ You are never seen taking notes on what you told them, but I have never heard of you forgetting anything you promised. What is your secret?”
Rayburn carefully eyed his questioner and replied, “If you tell the truth the first time, you don’t have to remember.”
I have always tried to follow Sam Rayburn’s advice because if you always tell the truth, you don’t need a good memory.
Think about your own dealings with businesses, organizations and even personal friends. Do you patronize a store that makes promises they don’t keep or that sells products that don’t perform as expected? Would you donate to a charity that invests more in promotion than in helping others? Do you continue friendships with people who lie to you?
Of course not. As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Honesty is so important that there’s actually a day to celebrate it: April 30, 2022, is Honesty Day. Author M. Hirsh Goldberg, author of “The Book of Lies: Fibs, Tales, Schemes, Scams, Fakes, and Frauds That Have Changed the Course of History and Affect Our Daily Lives,” created the day in the early 1990s. He placed it strategically on the final day of April to contrast with April Fool’s Day (lies!) at the beginning of the month.
Here’s a fish story that can actually be believed.
After fishing all day and not getting so much as a nibble, the fisherman went back to shore, loaded his boat on the trailer and began the drive home. Before reaching home, he stopped at a grocery store advertising fresh fish.
“Throw me a dozen of the biggest fish you have,” he said to the woman at the counter.
“Throw them? Why?” she asked.
“Because I’m going to catch them. I may be a lousy fisherman, but I’m not a liar.”
Mackay’s Moral: Only those on the level can climb the highest peaks.