Stop Rationalizing Dishonesty
“Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving.” ― James E. Faust.
Have you ever been in a situation where you find yourself making up excuses for not being totally honest about an incident? Do you include “work experience” that you never gained in your resume, but you justify it with the fact that it’s the “norm”?, Have you ever lied about your location because you don’t trust people? Given a stranger an incorrect phone number rather than vehemently refuse to give in to his/her demands? These are some examples of how we tend to rationalize our dishonesty, and if we do some soul searching, we will realize that our worldview of dishonesty has made something bad seem harmless.
Wikipedia has succinctly defined honesty as “a facet of moral character that connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, straightforwardness, including straightforwardness of conduct, along with the absence of lying, cheating, theft, etc.” Being honest means acting in integrity. When you know you have done something morally wrong, or when you have to hide your actions because you know they are wrong, you are not being honest. Unfortunately, honesty is a valuable trait that is gradually diminishing in our society.
As humans, we tend to believe what people say during conversations, and we also want them to believe us. According to Behavioral Economist, Dan Ariely, “the biggest driver of dishonesty is the ability to rationalize our actions so that we don’t lose the sense of ourselves as good people. Most people are able to cheat a little because they can maintain the sense of themselves as basically honest people. They won’t commit major fraud on their tax returns or insurance claims or expense reports, but they’ll cut corners or exaggerate here or there because they don’t feel that bad about it.”
We seem to have a natural ability to rationalize our behavior. After we have performed an act, we feel obligated to explain why we did it, not just for others who might question us, but especially for ourselves. We feel it is important to “convince” our conscience not to guilt-trip us when we do something wrong, which is why several people may find it difficult to admit their wrongdoing. They would rather churn out excuses for their mistakes or blame others for a decision they consciously made. A thief gets caught in a compromising position with his loots in his hands, and the next thing you might hear is “The devil used me” or “I need money to treat my sick mother.”
Remember the tale of Robin Hood? Yes, I am sure you do. He steals from the rich to give to the poor. We applaud the act because most of us are not in the league of the extremely wealthy. However, if Robin Hood steals from us with a rationalized reason, we will be furious simply because he stole from us. Adam’s excuse for eating the forbidden fruit was that Eve offered it to him, and Eve’s excuse was that a talking serpent convinced her. Taking responsibility is very tough because it is more likely to come with an abundance of shame.
So how do we stop rationalizing dishonesty?
• Understand that one “simple” lie leads to another.
• Always encourage and support honesty.
• Pray to God to give you the courage to be honest at all times.
• Take responsibility when you do something wrong.
Basically, you have to be a person of integrity! It is easier said than done, but it is achievable. Remember, our behaviors are a ripple effect in our families and the society. We need to do right by God, by our fellow men and by ourselves.
If you have learnt a thing or two, I encourage you to post in the comment section about a time you rationalized being dishonest, and how you intend to avoid repeating that behavior.