“When you tell the truth, justice is done, but lies leads to injustice.” (Prov. 12:17)
Being honest is not always easy. As Christians, we know how easy it is to fall into sin. Sometimes we may ask, “What’s wrong with a little white lie? Anyway, everybody’s doing it.” Or we may succumb to some situations which, unmindfully, we take them for granted because of their familiarity, yet, eventually dismantling our integrity as honest people. Instances like stealing someone’s pencil in school, not telling our parents the truth, not giving back something that a person has lost, engaging in gossiping, creating fake news in the social media or even cheating on a test are, but, some obvious manifestations of our need to grow in the virtue of Honesty.
Honesty is a direct reflection of our inner character. Since God is “true,” the members of his people are called to live in the truth. Honest people love the truth, and can practice the truth; thus the Holy Spirit works on them. Even little white lies to protect someone’s feelings can compromise our faith. Remember that speaking and living the truth help those around us come to the Truth. Honest people are trustworthy and reliable.
Our actions are a reflection of our faith, and reflecting the truth in our actions is a part of being a good witness; likewise, a way of keeping ourselves with a clear conscience.
- HONESTY AS A VIRTUE
Honesty means to give your heart to God; never to play Him false in anything. To be honest is when you speak the truth and act truthfully. It is to refrain from impurity in your actions and words and to deceive neither God nor man.
Honesty is a virtue that builds character, instills honor, and fosters a deep sense of self-worth. If we are to live in communion with God, who is truth, we must consent to live in the truth. It is a virtue that is almost integral of temperance by which a person loves all that is worthy of honor. It is a positive social character trait where you tell the truth and show integrity.
By teaching children and young people that honesty is not only practical but also virtuous, we bear authentic witness to our faith and reveal to them the truth of Jesus’ life and teaching.
Attributes of Honesty:
- Courage: Courage is the ability to do what is right or what is good even when it seems the act is dangerous.
- Truthfulness: This is simply the act of saying the truth at all times
- Loyalty: It is the act of being loyal i.e ability to show firm and constant support to a person or organization.
- Reliability: This is the act of showing that people can always rely or depend on you.
- Godliness: This is the ability to fear God at all times
- HONESTY FROM THE BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE
Two of the Ten Commandments are based on a call for honesty – you shall not steal (7th Commandment) and you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (8th Commandment). Without the truth, there can be no trust, and without trust, there can be no relationships with others.
“See to it, then, that you put an end to lying. Let everyone speak the truth to his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (Eph 4:25).
Jesus declared just how important and essential the truth is by describing it as the fundamental purpose of his saving mission: For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. (John 18:37). Jesus also taught, If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. (Jn 8:31) “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10) “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16).
III. CATHOLIC TEACHINGS ON HONESTY
What about secrets?
The good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language…. No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it…Everyone should observe an appropriate reserve concerning persons’ private lives. (Catechism 2489, 2492).
However, the fact that we are permitted, even obliged, to keep certain secrets and maintain discretion, does not mean that we are free to lie. For example, we cannot say, “I don’t know anything about that.” Neither can we make up false answers to the requested information. When we must decline to give information that is properly to be kept secret we must still remain truthful. We might say instead, “I am not free to discuss this matter with you now.” Or, “It would be inappropriate for me to comment on that.” Or, “Why don’t you ask him yourself?” Occasionally we may need to be more direct and say, “This is a private matter and not for you to know.”
Thus secrecy and discretion are often proper. Here too, however, absolutes must be avoided. Sometimes we are asked to keep secrets that we should not keep. For example, suppose someone confides in you that they intend to commit a serious crime, or bring harm to another? It would be wrong to keep such a secret. Other things being equal, secrets ought to be kept, save in exceptional cases where keeping the secret is bound to cause very grave harm to the one who confided it, to the one who received it or to a third party, and where the very grave harm can be avoided only by divulging the truth. (Catechism 2491).
- SIN AGAINST HONESTY
A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving. The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil: “You are of your father the devil’s… there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (CCC #2482)
Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man’s relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord. (CCC#2483)
The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity. (CCC #2484)
To be his disciples, Jesus teaches the unconditional love of truth: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes or No.’”[Mt 5:37] (CCC # 2466). Simply put, the words we speak must flow from the honesty and integrity of our hearts.
- POINTS FOR REFLECTION:
- When you speak to others, do your words flow from the truth alive within your heart?
- When God hears your words, does He see honesty?
- After a conversation, can you return to prayer and face your Lord in peace and with a clear conscience?
- PRAYER FOR THE VIRTUE OF HONESTY
Lord, please make us pure of heart. Help us to be persons of honesty and integrity – truthful to You, to ourselves and to others. May the truth that You place in our hearts be the basis of our words and action that will lead us to grow in charity and to a life that is pleasing to You. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Panginoon, mangyaring bigyan N’yo po kami ng pusong dalisay at tapat. Tulungan n’yo po kami na manatili kaming tapat sa Iyo, sa aming sarili’t kapwa. Nawa’y ang katotohanan na inilagay mo sa aming mga puso ay siyang maging batayan ng aming mga salita at gawa na siyang hahantong sa amin na lumago sa kawanggawa at isang buhay na kasiya-siya sa iyo. Ito’y hinihiling namin sa pamamagitan ni Kristo na aming Panginoon. Amen.