By Dr. Bobby J. Grossi

As kids, we learned that “honesty is the best policy” and as adults we all agree that it’s an important value. Yet so many of us do not practice honesty at all times. In fact, although honesty should be straightforward, our relationship with it can be downright complicated.

The Honesty Double Standard

Some people have two standards when it comes to honesty. They want the right to be brutally honest when talking to someone else, but they don’t want that same brutal honesty directed back towards them. They may tell others (and themselves) that they really do want honest feedback, but when they get it, they don’t know how to handle it.

It’s similar to how many people are about accountability. They are the first person to blame when other people make a mistake, but they have difficulty accepting accountability for their own blunders, so they pass the blame on to someone else.

This is hypocrisy, pure and simple. These kinds of behaviors do not do anything to improve the world and only reflect badly on a person’s character.

Honest Some of the Time

It’s easy to be honest when that honesty can’t hurt someone. It’s when we face the prospect of hurting people’s feelings that we figure a little dishonesty can’t hurt. This happens a lot in minor social situations. For example, you tell the proud parents of a not-so-cute baby that their baby is the most beautiful baby you’ve ever seen. Or you tell your friend that no, that outfit does not make you look fat, when it really does. Or someone asks you to guess their age and you shave off a few years because you know that what they really want is not for someone to guess their age, but to get reassurance that they look younger than they are.

Not wanting to hurt people’s feelings is a good thing. It’s perfectly understandable why so many people are lax about honesty in situations like the ones above. Yet it’s still dishonesty. It’s still upholding a double standard that in some cases, honesty is the right thing, and in other cases, honesty can be cast aside.

Getting Over the Double Standard

First, be real with yourself. If you say that you’re the kind of person who wants to hear the truth, then learn how to handle it well when it comes your way. When someone tells you what they really think, you must thank them for their honesty, even if you don’t like what you hear. This is the only way people will learn that they can actually take you at your word and be honest with you. You don’t have to agree with what they say, and you don’t have to act on it, but you do have to respect their honesty.

You also have to commit to honesty as a value that you don’t compromise on. Yes, this may lead to some awkward moments at first. Over time, however, you’ll be teaching people that they can trust in you, because you always speak the truth. You’ll also be developing your true character, one of the greatest assets a human can have.