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Is Honesty always the best Policy ?

ShoshinShoshin No one in particularNowhere Special Veteran

This thread came about after reading through another thread

.

Is honesty always the best policy ? (not even those little white lies one might say to spare another's feelings)

Or are there times when a little white lie is called for ?

What do you think ?

As for me...I'm as honest as the day is long....( in winter time in the far north of Scandinavia) . Well perhaps that's stretching the truth just a tiny bit ;) "I always lie" and this is the truth ;)

Jokes aside....I find my self lying quite a bit , about others and to others on a daily bases force of habit I guess...I try not to lie to my self but it does happen on the odd occasion ...

However these lies are not vindictive or with any malice...I guess you would call it a case of stretching the truth a little to fit/suit the occasion...in an attempt to do the least harm possible...as the situation presents itself...

For example, in one of my jobs I have to deal (on behalf of my clients) with creditors, debt collection companies and the like...so this stretching the truth a little to fit/suit the occasion gives my clients ( who are already under a lot of stress anxiety & worried AKA SAW ) some breathing space...whilst I try to negotiate a repayment plan that hopefully will benefit all parties involved ....

How many times have you lied either to your self or others today ?

I guess what I'm asking is.... does "Right Speech" mean under no circumstances should one lie ?....Even if telling the truth means causing harm (be it physical or mental eg stress anxiety worry )...

Or does it mean the use of words which lead to the least harm possible ?

Hmm maybe the two wings of Wisdom & Compassion should come into play when assessing the situation,...when the truth might need stretching just a little to make ends meet.... :)

yagrlobsterHozanFosdickperson
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Comments

  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @Shoshin said:
    Is honesty always the best policy ? (not even those little white lies one might say to spare another's feelings)

    Until recently I thought so. But I've discovered once the words are out of your mouth, you cannot control how they are understood or interpreted. You also cannot control how people feel about them either.

    Or does it mean the use of words which lead to the least harm possible ?

    I think this is definitely the way to go IME.
    🙏🙏

    yagrShoshin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Shoshin said:
    Is honesty always the best policy ? (not even those little white lies one might say to spare another's feelings)

    For a long time I held that rigid honesty was best, and I tried to stick to that. But I’ve recently been working with vulnerable clients where omitting a certain amount of material is wise, as long as you’re not short changing them on things they need to know. So yes, I’ve been changing my mind.

    Or does it mean the use of words which lead to the least harm possible ?

    That seems like a good approach to take, although I would still tend towards telling the truth.

    KundopersonShoshin
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately as well. I regularly find myself adjusting the way I express myself so certain aspects of my mind can be heard by others. At times this can lead to statements that don't fully express all my true thoughts and leaves open the possibility for interpretations that I wouldn't agree with. So I feel like I try to put out words that are beneficial and agreeable (can be heard) and aren't untrue or nonfactual but maybe aren't fully authentic. I don't think it happens often, I try to be authentic, but it doesn't seem right that brutally honest, fully candid words is the correct position either. Once again in Buddhism we seem to be left trying to tune the strings to not be too tight or too loose, and as imperfect beings we won't always get it right. But it is important that we are intropective on the matter.

    As an intellectual addition a very important contribution to western ethical philosophy is Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative, which I think says that ethical values should be applied universally and absolutely. My understanding of all this isn't that great but I think Kant's view is often juxtaposed with utilitarian ethics (the greatest good for the greatest number of people). So for example Kant might say that you should never lie, while a utilitarian would say that you should lie to protect the Jews from the Nazis. In Kant's favor is the notion that human rights and dignities should be applied universally, while a utilitarian might argue that indignities or oppression of some is justified if it serves the greater good. In the end I think it's all complicated and humans use different values and systems depending on the context and situation. What I find valuable about Buddhist ethics is that it asks each of us to develop our own wisdom and compassion so that we can better (more virtuous and effective) determine situationally correct actions rather than relying on an absolute moral code.

    ShoshinBuddhadragonyagr
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited December 5

    It's hard sometimes, calling a spade a bloody shovel, because at times people will beat you over the head with it.

    The old "Do we confess to the Nazis we're hiding Jews?" chestnut - while a valid concept that has been discussed, goodness, I don't know how many times here - doesn't take into account the personal morals of the people involved (on all sides) or what the situation might be, or the different parameters and options additionally available... All the question begs to ask is 'do you lie or not?' Which really, is a far too black-and-white scenario in comparison to how things must actually have been then.
    So I must confess, I bristle a little whenever the question comes up because it's total hypothesis, and we could never hope to really, truly know how things would pan out.

    It is far more reasonable to consider real-life scenarios and perhaps reflect on personal experience.... simply because we can all relate. How parents interact with their children, and the double standards some apply.
    For example, it's funny.... We teach our children to try to be honest, upright, well-behaved citizens, and to be fair and truthful, and then we lie to them about this fat jolly stranger, whom they should admire and welcome with open arms and be good for... Talk about the Insanity Clause...

    For my part, it's not a question of whether Honesty is the Best Policy or not. The Buddha gives very clear guidelines on that aspect of Right Speech.

    No, it's not the honesty that is in question.
    It's how you frame your honesty. If at all.

    Shoshinyagr
  • Lee82Lee82 Veteran

    I think it comes down to intent. If the intent of your words is to do well or prevent harm then that would be right speech. Sometimes being truthful can be used to cause harm but you wouldn’t consider it right speech just because it isn’t a lie.

    HozanlobsterShoshin
  • Be true.
    Be kind.

    HozanBuddhadragonShoshin
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    @lobster said:
    Be true.
    Be kind.

    And those who can't appreciate your truth nor your kindness, did not belong in your life anyway.

    Cash in the lesson and move on.
    💕🐉

    HozanKundoShoshinnakazcid
  • HozanHozan Veteran

    @Buddhadragon said:

    @lobster said:
    Be true.
    Be kind.

    And those who can't appreciate your truth nor your kindness, did not belong in your life anyway.

    Cash in the lesson and move on.
    💕🐉

    Amen to that. 💚💚💚

    Buddhadragon
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @person said:
    In the end I think it's all complicated and humans use different values and systems depending on the context and situation. What I find valuable about Buddhist ethics is that it asks each of us to develop our own wisdom and compassion so that we can better (more virtuous and effective) determine situationally correct actions rather than relying on an absolute moral code.

    I do think there are some areas which are obvious for compassionate human beings to have similar conclusions together though. People do use different value systems — look at politics and Trump for a very current example — but that does not mean that those value systems are well developed or complete.

    In the end being asked to develop ethics means deciding where you stand with respect to compassion and aiding your fellow man. And that is an area where a religious man (of any kind) may give a very different answer than for example a pure materialist.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    edited December 7

    @Kerome said:

    @person said:
    In the end I think it's all complicated and humans use different values and systems depending on the context and situation. What I find valuable about Buddhist ethics is that it asks each of us to develop our own wisdom and compassion so that we can better (more virtuous and effective) determine situationally correct actions rather than relying on an absolute moral code.

    I do think there are some areas which are obvious for compassionate human beings to have similar conclusions together though. People do use different value systems — look at politics and Trump for a very current example — but that does not mean that those value systems are well developed or complete.

    In the end being asked to develop ethics means deciding where you stand with respect to compassion and aiding your fellow man. And that is an area where a religious man (of any kind) may give a very different answer than for example a pure materialist.

    Yeah, I don't want to come off as a complete moral relativist, I do believe in better and worse. I guess I do think about worldly concerns in addition to spiritual ones though and I see the world as messy and full of choices between bad and worse. Nagarjuna was supposed to have said prayers something to the effect of wishing to never be laden with worldly responsibilities because he would be compelled to make hard choices that would go against his practice and convictions.

    I've believed for a while that the separation of church and state explicit in the US framework not only protects the state from the influence of religious beliefs. But it protects religious traditions against political influence. As such I've had the thought quite often lately that politics poisons everything. A part of me thinks I should step away from political thought to focus on my spiritual development, but another part of me thinks the political world is too important.

    As a related aside I would highly recommend Jonathan Haidt's book "The Righteous Mind, why good people are divided by politics and religion". I see it as an essential handbook to understand the current culture war.

    Buddhadragon
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited December 7

    @person said:
    I've believed for a while that the separation of church and state explicit in the US framework not only protects the state from the influence of religious beliefs. But it protects religious traditions against political influence.

    As long as it is respected properly. There are a lot of cases in the US where religion is encroaching on politics, and politics has been happy to take religion’s money.

    As such I've had the thought quite often lately that politics poisons everything. A part of me thinks I should step away from political thought to focus on my spiritual development, but another part of me thinks the political world is too important.

    Personally I would agree with that. Politics is actually relatively unimportant because we only have one lever to influence it, voting, which is a small action on one day every few years. Considering the amount of media time that is spent on it, it is totally disproportionate. I’ve taken the view that I do a small amount of political reading and research prior to an election, and the rest of the time I take as little notice as possible.

    federica
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I don't even go that far. I haven't voted in what surely must be 30 years plus...

    I think basically, for the most part, politicians are mainly in it for themselves, because the perks are frankly phenomenal, outrageous and obscene. (Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair charges £200,000 per half-hour speech! Most people don't earn that in a year!!)

    I also don't trust politicians to keep their manifesto promises because History demonstrates very clearly that most of them are just carrots to woo voters, which eventually turn out to be hot air and unworkable.
    I hear politicians spouting platitudes and avoiding questions, and I don't trust them as far as I could throw their shoes, let alone them.

  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    @person said:
    I've had the thought quite often lately that politics poisons everything. A part of me thinks I should step away from political thought to focus on my spiritual development, but another part of me thinks the political world is too important.

    Politicians are supposed to represent the will of the people, yet most of us feel so little represented by the choices politicians take in our name.

    Most times, all we are left to do is to mind our spiritual development, hope to become better Mensch and expect other human beings to do their share too.
    In due course, we might all impact some positive changes for our planet at a macro level too.
    In any case, politics is not an issue we may easily shrug off without silencing our part in the big change.

    Hozan
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @federica said:...I think basically, for the most part, politicians are mainly in it for themselves, because the perks are frankly phenomenal, outrageous and obscene. ....
    ... I also don't trust politicians to keep their manifesto promises because History demonstrates very clearly that most of them are just carrots to woo voters, which eventually turn out to be hot air and unworkable.
    I hear politicians spouting platitudes and avoiding questions, and I don't trust them as far as I could throw their shoes, let alone them.

    I rest my case.

  • HozanHozan Veteran
    edited December 7

    @Buddhadragon said:

    @person said:
    I've had the thought quite often lately that politics poisons everything. A part of me thinks I should step away from political thought to focus on my spiritual development, but another part of me thinks the political world is too important.

    Politicians are supposed to represent the will of the people, yet most of us feel so little represented by the choices politicians take in our name.

    Most times, all we are left to do is to mind our spiritual development, hope to become better Mensch and expect other human beings to do their share too.
    In due course, we might all impact some positive changes for our planet at a macro level too.
    In any case, politics is not an issue we may easily shrug off without silencing our part in the big change.

    I agree @Buddhadragon . We give up our vote then we give up our hard fought for democratic right to vote and effect change. Trump got in because many disillusioned people didnt vote. Yes sometimes its not much of a choice but if we give up our democratic right to vote we give up any hope to effect positive change for ourselves or the next generation. People need to vote to get rid of Trump and save the planet.
    Dont vote. Dont complain when the whole thing goes up in flames.

    KundoBuddhadragon
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited December 7

    I must respectfully disagree. Because it doesn't matter who you vote for, the 'Government' always gets in.
    And someone who doesn't vote can complain more vociferously, more fiercely and more stridently than those who vote, because most of the time, people don't vote logically, they vote emotionally.

    Trump won the election by appealing to the emotions of people at the time.
    Not logic, not correctness, not common sense.

    Emotions.

    They're reaping the wild wind, now...

    I can confidently say I am not personally, directly or indirectly responsible for the awful mess British Politics finds itself in now.

    It's an almighty clusterfXXX
    Cameron abandoned the British people to an in-house bun-fight which has exponentially worsened as the Brexit issue has progressed.

    May is struggling.
    Corbyn and his party may be baying for her political blood, but I am confident they could do no better.
    It's a quagmire, and frankly, they're welcome to each other, because no one party is better than the other.
    And people who voted, are responsible for their decisions, and have to put their hands up to what they did.

    Indeed, everyone is calling for a new referendum. Government has been found "In Contempt" of parliament. There is scaremongering going on to a ludicrous degree.

    I have no such responsibility and am entirely entitled to criticise anyone openly, because I didn't contribute to the chaos.

    This is just my opinion, because, not really being a political animal, taking into account the bigger picture, The world keeps turning, and we keep practising....

  • HozanHozan Veteran

    @Buddhadragon said:

    @person said:
    I've had the thought quite often lately that politics poisons everything. A part of me thinks I should step away from political thought to focus on my spiritual development, but another part of me thinks the political world is too important.

    Politicians are supposed to represent the will of the people, yet most of us feel so little represented by the choices politicians take in our name.

    Most times, all we are left to do is to mind our spiritual development, hope to become better Mensch and expect other human beings to do their share too.
    In due course, we might all impact some positive changes for our planet at a macro level too.
    In any case, politics is not an issue we may easily shrug off without silencing our part in the big change.

    Keep practising! Keep positive on a local level.....and keep voting!

    Buddhadragon
  • HozanHozan Veteran
    edited December 7

    @Hozan said:

    @Buddhadragon said:

    @person said:
    I've had the thought quite often lately that politics poisons everything. A part of me thinks I should step away from political thought to focus on my spiritual development, but another part of me thinks the political world is too important.

    Politicians are supposed to represent the will of the people, yet most of us feel so little represented by the choices politicians take in our name.

    Most times, all we are left to do is to mind our spiritual development, hope to become better Mensch and expect other human beings to do their share too.
    In due course, we might all impact some positive changes for our planet at a macro level too.
    In any case, politics is not an issue we may easily shrug off without silencing our part in the big change.

    I agree @Buddhadragon . We give up our vote then we give up our hard fought for democratic right to vote and effect change. Trump got in because many disillusioned people didnt vote. Yes sometimes its not much of a choice but if we give up our democratic right to vote we give up any hope to effect positive change for ourselves or the next generation. People need to vote to get rid of Trump and save the planet.
    Dont vote. Dont complain when the whole thing goes up in flames.

    The men is dated. Exchange people for men.

    Buddhadragon
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I'm not doing 'nothing'. I'm making my voice heard equilaterally.
    There's a difference... ;)

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited December 7

    Furthermore, I think it would be best to re-read the first post and veer back to some kind of on-topic discussion.

    @Shoshin said:
    This thread came about after reading through another thread

    .

    Is honesty always the best policy ? (not even those little white lies one might say to spare another's feelings)

    Or are there times when a little white lie is called for ?

    What do you think ?

    As for me...I'm as honest as the day is long....( in winter time in the far north of Scandinavia) . Well perhaps that's stretching the truth just a tiny bit ;) "I always lie" and this is the truth ;)

    Jokes aside....I find my self lying quite a bit , about others and to others on a daily bases force of habit I guess...I try not to lie to my self but it does happen on the odd occasion ...

    However these lies are not vindictive or with any malice...I guess you would call it a case of stretching the truth a little to fit/suit the occasion...in an attempt to do the least harm possible...as the situation presents itself...

    For example, in one of my jobs I have to deal (on behalf of my clients) with creditors, debt collection companies and the like...so this stretching the truth a little to fit/suit the occasion gives my clients ( who are already under a lot of stress anxiety & worried AKA SAW ) some breathing space...whilst I try to negotiate a repayment plan that hopefully will benefit all parties involved ....

    How many times have you lied either to your self or others today ?

    I guess what I'm asking is.... does "Right Speech" mean under no circumstances should one lie ?....Even if telling the truth means causing harm (be it physical or mental eg stress anxiety worry )...

    Or does it mean the use of words which lead to the least harm possible ?

    Hmm maybe the two wings of Wisdom & Compassion should come into play when assessing the situation,...when the truth might need stretching just a little to make ends meet.... :)

  • HozanHozan Veteran

    Great quote !! 💚

    Buddhadragon
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Hozan said:

    Great quote !! 💚

    Yes, I agree, it is. One of my favourites. :)

  • HozanHozan Veteran

    @lobster said:

    And I'm STILL looking for a way I could have handled it more skillfully.

    <3

    @Shoshin said:
    Is honesty always the best policy?

    The best policy is speaking what can honestly be heard. In other words we have to be mindful of the listener not our compulsive need to be righteous ...

    Or does it mean the use of words which lead to the least harm possible ?

    <3

    ShoshinBuddhadragon
  • HozanHozan Veteran

    Buddhadragon
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    A quote I found (also in Lama Surya Das's books) was "Speak your truth' state it like it is. There is no reason to do otherwise."
    I'm looking for the quote to confirm its provenance, but I think such a recommendation should be taken alongside one, by Maya Angelou, which I also love...

    For me, that stands out as a reminder that even when stating one's Truth, one should be Mindful and gentle.

    Something which sadly, I all-too-often forget.

    personlobsterKundo
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Each day when I rise I open up and stretch my wings of compassion & wisdom ...........at times some situations may try to pluck them...

    HozanBuddhadragon
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Nothing worse than a wise and compassionate person having their wings clipped.

    There is a superstition that if the Ravens housed in the Tower of London, fly away, the whole monument will crumble and collapse.

    To prevent this prophecy from being fulfilled, the Ravens have their wings clipped.

    Which means that they have to stay exactly where they are, and be upfront, visible and ever-present.

    So if a Wise and Compassionate person has their wings clipped, those responsible have created a dynamic where rather than subdue that Essence, they have made it more upfront, visible and present.

    Clipped wings do not a prisoner make....

    Shoshin
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    Ravens in the Tower of London...

    ShoshinHozan
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Back in the 70s my brother in-law was a Beefeater at the Tower...Hmm and in the early 70s I became a vegetarian...go figure ;) :)

    BuddhadragonHozan
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    @Hozan said:

    Great quote !! 💚

    Thank you, @Hozan

    A quote that never fails to make some people laugh...
    🐉

    Hozan
  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    When I first took the Five Precepts, I strove earnestly to tell the truth all the time. Over time I learned how to omit harsh details, or spin the truth, in certain ways to avoid harming others (or myself.) While some may view this as dissembling, I view it as essential to speaking the truth without doing harm.

    BuddhadragonHozanShoshinKundo
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Buddhadragon said:

    @Hozan said:

    Great quote !! 💚

    Thank you, @Hozan

    A quote that never fails to make some people laugh...
    🐉

    I didn't quite know what you meant by that, until I looked back at the original post and saw that I had mistakenly hit Lol instead of awesome. It is, as I later mentioned, agreeing with @Hozan, also one of my favourite quotations, and the error was inadvertent. I have altered the reaction.

    Sorry 'bout that. Glad you pointed it out.

    :)

    Buddhadragon
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    It’s true, there’s this halfway point between totally honestly discussing the issues (and maybe upsetting someone), and being a diplomat (at the cost of avoiding many things that matter).

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    A Diplomat doesn't avoid things that matter. A Diplomat states what needs to be said, but couched in terms which will neither offend nor affront...

    nakazcidlobsterKundo
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    On the one hand, the MMPI (a psychological pen-and-paper test designed to screen out people with serious mental/emotional disorders) has several questions designed to see IF you are answering the test honestly.
    One of those questions is "I never lie". IF you answer "True", your test is considered invalid. Psychology assumes that everyone lies.

    Yet one of the basic, Five Precepts, vows that Buddhists take is to avoid lying, even to avoid deliberate misrepresentation or misleading others.
    So, as a practicing Buddhist we endeavour to be honest. For two reasons:
    (1) Karmic implications. We become what we do/choose. So lying creates "lying karmas" that will, at some point, attract us into circumstances where we are innocent but accused, and not believed. So they tell us. My point here is that despite our vows, we DO sometimes CHOOSE to deliberately lie .. but need to be aware that we cannot escape the consequences of those imprints/karmas we create in ourselves. So if lying is a choice, we need to make it be an informed choice about the consequencdes.
    (2) The main intention of making these vows is not about karma, but to help us become more mindful of our behavior. Caught with our hand IN the cookie jar, our first impulse is to lie to try to avoid getting in trouble .. but if we have our vows, instead of automatically reacting, we try to look behind the impulse, to see our fear there, and become mindful, relax, accept, and NOT automatically respond with a lie. This is essence of practicing Buddhism.

    One final comment from J. Krishnamurti, who was not a Buddhist yet could have been:
    "Always tell the truth, but never tell an unkind truth".

    I would be lying if I told you that I was always successful and mindful about my level of honesty.

    nakazcidpersonlobsterShoshin
  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @FoibleFull said:

    >

    One final comment from J. Krishnamurti, who was not a Buddhist yet could have been:
    "Always tell the truth, but never tell an unkind truth".

    >

    🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏

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