Honesty is kinder than kindness. This may sound counterintuitive, but hear me out. While it's important to be kind to others, sometimes kindness can be a form of dishonesty. We may avoid difficult conversations or sugarcoat the truth to spare someone's feelings. But in doing so, we rob them of the opportunity for growth and improvement.
On the other hand, being honest—even if it's difficult—can ultimately be kinder and more beneficial in the long run. Let's explore why honesty is so crucial in our value hierarchy, and how it can help us become Next Level Humans who are committed to personal growth, serving others, and evolving the world in a positive direction.
Is Honesty The Number One Value Of A Next Level Human? I think so, here’s why?
Here's what we've been told: success is the ultimate goal. Climbing the ladder, acquiring wealth, and accumulating power will make us happy and fulfilled. But is that really true? And what does it mean for our personal growth and our ability to make a positive impact on the world around us?
As a healer, psychologist, and philosopher, I've spent a lot of time thinking about these questions. And I've come to the conclusion that there's a different way of looking at value hierarchies that can help us become Next Level Humans.
At the top of any value hierarchy must be honesty. Why? Because without honesty, we can't truly grow ourselves, serve others, or evolve the world in a positive direction.
Think about it: if we're not honest with ourselves about our weaknesses and flaws, we can't work on improving them. If we're not honest with others about our intentions and actions, we can't build trust and healthy relationships. And if we're not honest with the world about our impact and responsibility, we can't make meaningful change.
Honesty is the foundation upon which all other values must be built. Without it, everything else crumbles.
But being honest isn't always easy. Sometimes it means admitting to ourselves that we're not as great as we thought we were. Sometimes it means having difficult conversations with loved ones or colleagues. And sometimes it means taking responsibility for our mistakes and shortcomings.
The philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that honesty is not just a good value to have, but a moral duty that we owe to others. According to his categorical imperative, we should never manipulate other people (i.e., use them as a means to our ends) unless they are aware and give permission. This means that being honest is not just important for our personal growth, but for our ethical behavior towards others.
To help us master the practice of honesty, we can use the acronym TRUE.
T is for Truth. Before engaging with any information, ask yourself if you know it directly or if it's hearsay. If you're not 100% sure that something is true, it's best not to engage with it.
R is for Responsibility. Ask yourself if it's your responsibility or business to speak on a particular matter. Especially when we cannot know all the angles, it's important to consider if sharing information is truly your responsibility.
U is for Useful. Ask yourself if what you're about to say or do is helpful or harmful. While harm is tough to judge, we should always try to look at things through the lens of what is good and useful over the long run versus what is expedient and comfortable right now.
E is for Entire. Do you know the entire truth, and even if you do, do you need to tell the entire truth? Sometimes, adding more information just adds hurt without additional clarification. It's important to give enough information to ensure the person understands reality and has all the information needed to make their choice and no more.
Let’s use the TRUE acronym in a real-life setting. Let’s say you are in the lobby of a hotel room when you see a close friend's spouse walk through the lobby with someone of the opposite sex. They get into the elevator together, and while you can’t be certain, they looked like they were “together.” They were not holding hands but were walking closely together. As the door was shutting, it looked as if they were turning toward each other in an intimate way. What do you do? Do you say anything to your friend? Let’s go through the acronym.
T= True. Do you know the truth of this situation for certain? Do you know they are together? Did you see them be intimate? Are you certain this is a romantic situation? Is it possible they were going up to the meeting rooms together for a work-related situation? Is it possible they are old friends who are just catching up?
R= Responsibility. Even if you knew for 100% certain they were romantically involved, is it your responsibility? Is this any of your business? Are you the keeper of your friend's relationship?
U= Useful. If you did know for certain this was an affair, and these two were going up to a room to have sex, would telling your friend be harmful or helpful? Maybe your friend and their spouse have an open arrangement? Perhaps this is a bump in the road of an otherwise beautiful marriage and your intervening would ruin that? Who’s to say whether speaking or not speaking helps or hurts your friend?
E= Entire? Do you know the entire truth or are you making assumptions? All that can truly be known is what you saw. Likewise, even if you walked in on these two having sex and did know for 100% certain, would you need to tell your friend every gory detail? What would need to be said or shared so as not to manipulate your friend's reality while also not needlessly sharing hurtful things that do nothing to add to the reality they require?
This situation is a tricky one. Perhaps it would depend on how close you are to your friend. Maybe you would behave one way if it was your sister, or best friend compared to a work acquaintance?
We would all handle this differently of course and however, you see it is just fine. Let me share with you how I would handle this.
True? To me, all I know for sure is that I saw my friend's spouse walking through a hotel lobby and getting in an elevator with someone. I would make no other assumptions other than what I saw.
Responsibility? Regardless of what I saw, I don’t see this as my responsibility. I am not a judge or juror. I am not in charge of my friend's romantic relationship. This has nothing to do with me.
Useful? I don’t see any upside to sharing this at all. It could not only hurt my friend and ruin their relationship with their spouse, but it could also ruin our relationship.
Entire? I don’t know the entire truth. Therefore I can only share what I saw. Even if I did know for sure what the situation was, and decided to share, I would only share what was required to not manipulate the reality of my friend.
For me, the only way I would share any aspect of this situation with my fired is if they asked me directly. Maybe they ask, “hey I have a feeling related to my spouse. They have been distant of late and acting strange. I can’t help but feel like they may be having an affair or something. Have you noticed anything or seen anything?” In that case, I might say, “You know, I did see them the other day with someone walking through a hotel lobby. It could have been anything though. I think if you are feeling this way, you should talk to them.
No matter how much my friend pried, I would say no more. In my case, even if I walked in on their spouse having sex with someone else, I would not share that. I would likely say, “look, I can tell you that I think your intuition is correct and you really need to have a conversation with them. I love you, and because of that, I am not going to share anything else with you. This is a situation between you and your spouse. I am here for you, but this is really none of my business.
Now, of course, this is my way of handling it. Undoubtedly, some of you reading this would share even less. Others of you may be shocked that I would not tell everything immediately. For me, this is not something that I need to share in all its gory detail. I will share only if asked and only what I know for sure.
All my friends know this about me. None of my friends would be at all surprised to hear me say this. They know where I stand on such matters. I pride myself on not interfering in people’s lives unless they are in direct or imminent danger. But if the issue is just regarding the messiness of being human, then my responsibility is to myself. My job towards my friends is to love them and be there for them when they ask. I am not the policeman of other people's lives and choices. And this is how I see honesty and sharing.
By prioritizing honesty in our value hierarchy and using the TRUE acronym, we can become Next Level Humans who are committed to personal growth, serving others, and evolving the world in a positive direction. It may not always be easy, but the rewards are worth it. So let's commit to being honest with ourselves, others, and the world around us. Let's build a foundation of honesty that will allow us to reach new heights and make a real difference in the world.
What do you think? How do you handle honesty and kindness?