How Much Honesty Is Required for Good Mental Health?


Although mental health problems are not caused by dishonesty, clearly our conscious and unconscious deceptions affect our relationships, to self and others, and impact our mind-body health.

What brings the topic of honesty to mind is that April 30 is National Honesty Day, coming at the end of a month that begins with April Fools Day.

This holiday dedicated to honesty was initiated by the author M. Hirsh Goldberg in the 1990s after writing The Book of Lies: Schemes, Scams, Fakes, and Frauds That Have Changed the Course of History and Affect Our Daily Lives.

National Honesty Day was established to encourage “honesty in the workplace and the market place and to honor the honorable,” said Goldberg. Well, we can surely use more of that, and the most practical way to raise the world’s experience of honesty is to increase our personal expression of it.

Four Types of Personal Honesty

The majority of humans, as far as observation can tell, value living with integrity. A problem arises when our fears, misperceptions and problematic beliefs cause us to live less authentically than we would like. We will sacrifice some degree of honesty for the sake of security, and this does take a toll on our quality of life.

1. Sticking to the Facts

Most of us exaggerate personal stories for effect and occasionally lie to save face, protect our feelings or avoid undesirable consequences. Lying becomes problematic and disastrous for relationships, business or personal, when it becomes a way of life.

Good relationships are based on shared reality, what people actually feel and experience. Those who frequently lie are connecting with others according to fiction. Although people can develop the habit of lying as a means of surviving a difficult childhood, it is not a good basis for quality adult relationships. You cannot build a secure structure on soft sand.

Those who feel compelled to lie may need the help of a professional counselor to release this habit and learn to trust authentic experience.

2. Being True to Your Word

To say what you mean and mean what you say is crucial for establishing yourself as a trustworthy person. If you say one thing and mean another people will eventually see this, and come to expect it. Miguel Ruiz, in his book The Four Agreements, writes about being “impeccable” with your word:

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

3. Public and Private Harmony

It is so easy to rationalize small acts of dishonesty when no one is looking. However, if you have to rationalize your private behavior to yourself, then you have a conscience and know you are being dishonest. Does it matter? Everyone has to answer this for themselves.

What many people have discovered is that they feel lighter, freer, and have respect for themselves when their private and public actions are in harmony.

4. Emotional Honesty

Emotional authenticity requires acknowledging to ourselves what we are feeling, and having the skills and courage to let others know what we feel as well.

Expressing emotion and feeling effectively is one of the most difficult tasks in life for many of us, and being unable to do so is a primary reason we have difficulty with self-esteem and relationships.

Emotional dishonesty is for most people self-protective. We protect ourselves by:

  1. Not feeling all or some of our emotions.
  2. Not being honest with ourself about what we feel or talking ourselves out of what we feel.
  3. Not trusting our emotions or feelings (thinking they are “wrong”).
  4. Using emotions and feelings to get what we need or want (they rule our behavior).

If understanding, trusting and expressing emotions is problematic for you, consider using individual or group counseling to increase your emotional confidence and skill. Doing this can only make communication easier. You will feel more powerful and better understood.


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