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lucid thoughts

honesty Mar 29, 2011

Be Honest Even If...

The Honesty Statement
I'm sure you've come across this statement online, or maybe you saw it painted on a wall or billboard:

Be honest,
    even if others are not;
    even if others will not;
    even if others cannot.

Modern Day Honesty Truism
I can't say it caught on like wildfire, but it certainly struck a chord. It seems to be the new version of the age-old axiom, "Honesty is the best policy". Every generation reinvents its own version of good things that came before them...just to make it resonate to present day convention - movies, songs, heroes, etc. Honesty...easier said than done.

Not Squeaky Clean
Hey, it's not like I'm preaching from the pulpit about honesty. I have my own share. I could think of three.

  • 10 cents - yes, 10 centavos. This was my very first 'kupit' (it's a cutsie term coined by the local culture for decriminalizing what really is plain stealing). I was a kid then...maybe 8 years old...saw 10 cents on the table. I thought long and hard if I should take it. Maybe Mom won't notice. I took it, spent it. Mom noticed. The next hour was spent being chewed to the bone by Mom. I couldn't forget it. She drilled me until I was nauseated. I'm glad it happened that way...nipped at the bud. It taught me a hard lesson early on...that I'm a lousy thief.
  • Chippy - I was in 2nd year high school walking inside a grocery with a classmate. Even though it was cool during that time, I was never really into the shoplifting thing. But I guess I wanted to impress my classmate that I was 'badass'. So I told him we could snack on the Chippy junk food while going around the grocery and then quietly throwing the package away. We did just that. We were caught. The manager turned out to be my girlfriend's uncle. It was the most embarrassing moment. I wanted to die. That's the last time I remember doing such a stupid thing. Again, despite the humiliation, and in hindsight, I'm glad I got what I deserved.
  • $11 box of coffee - I was already a working adult running my coffee business. The supplier failed to bill me a box of coffee worth $11. I rationalized it wasn't my fault...I can't be responsible for the other guy's oversight. Now, I can't think of that episode without feeling small. If I were in Canada, I'd go to that roaster's office and pay him that $11 + interest.

Real Life Stories
First time I read that honesty statement, a few real-life stories flooded into my mind.

The Mechanic
As an impressionable teenager, I remember my Dad pointing out to me the mechanic who was fixing his car. He said, "Look at that guy. He's a good mechanic and I wanted to build a relationship with him. I went the extra mile. I sent him to a doctor to get his jaundice addressed...paid for the doctor, paid for the medication. I thought I had his loyalty. After cross checking the receipt for the parts he bought, I found out he padded the receipt. 20 years from now, he'll still be a mechanic scrounging a meal from one day to another. He's set his own ceiling."

The Stockboy
An acquaintance who was running her own propane business flatly told me that she knows her stockboy was stealing from her. Me: "so, why is he still working for you?". Answer: "anyone who replaces him will likely steal from me anyway. At least, with this guy, I already how much he's stealing."

The Loyal Employee
This one really blew me away. It's classic, it should be for the books. I won't name this politician, but you all know him...imprisoned for statutory rape. Anyway, it's not about him, but about his die-hard loyal employee. This politician is as charming as it gets. He has this uncanny ability to get the loyalty and admiration of people around him. He has this avid employee who cannot complete a sentence without referring to this politician in complete deference. He idolized this politician and everybody knew that. But here's the rub: he was caught skimming money from the politician's coffers! It seems he regards his idol and his idol's money as two separate and unconnected things. Enough said.

The Hallelujah Guy
This guy's for the books too. Well educated by the Jesuits, well-off family, highly respected by his peers and community. He's very active with his religious group and on occasions, would invoke God in the conversation. I myself admired this person, so when he came to me for a loan, I didn't think twice about it. When I wanted my money back, he suddenly stopped replying to my calls and emails. Sound familiar? he-he...read on. Finally, when I saw him, his first line was, "I haven't forgotten...next month, it'll be settled. Trust me." Of course the month came and passed...no word from him...no reply from my messages. I bumped into him again, and his first line again was exactly the same as before: "I haven't forgotten...next month, it'll be settled. Trust me." Sound more familiar? So much for talk about God.

I can really go on and on with this....just too many stories about skimming, petty theft, unpaid debts, price padding, etc.

Being One of a Kind
Dishonesty seems to be the prevailing norm, some people simply resign themselves to it. It's ingrained into the culture there's even a cute word coined for it - kupit, making it less harsh...more palatable. That got me thinking. I look around me and I see a lot of poor people. Not surprising. 80% of Filipinos live below the poverty line. I always hear that life is too hard. Hmmm. Maybe so. But I also see an opportunity. In a landscape mired with dishonesty, I can see prosperity to the man who choses to be honest...despite his predisposition to dishonesty. Why? He's way ahead of competition. He'll be in high demand. I maintain that any man trying to be honest will never run out of work even if he has the most rudimentary of any skill. To the poor person who complains life is tough, honesty can be the ticket out of poverty. If you can't be honest for the sake of it, then be honest simply because it's good business.

Ending Thoughts
Let's go back to the honesty statement. What I find wrong with that is it presupposes everybody is dishonest...except you. Given the foregoing examples, let me add one more line to the statement:

Be honest,
    even if others are not;
    even if others will not;
    even if others cannot;
    even if you are not.

--- TheLoneRider

Reader Comments:

Michael Fazackerley
(Jul 28, 2011) Just reading some of your latest adventures and prompted to delve into Lucid Thoughts. I have said many things about my admiration for you in the past. This continues to be true. You continue to be a guru. Not a teacher but a living example.

My friend Tara and I were just speaking last night about the metaphorical nature of religious texts and how often they are taken so literally that they lose their meaning. You have illustrated the everyday practicality of morality well here. It is good for you! The 'wrath of God' for sinning is also 'God's Love'.

You are wise. When 'hell rained down upon you' you learned valuable lessons early on. Some people it seems have a much harder time of heeding those lessons. And so, life continues to be somewhat 'hellish' for them. This despite God, or the Universe, or what-have-you, giving frequent indications and opportunities to make better choices.

Most of us do this of course. I shall not discount my own follies. That is how we learn. There may be no greater lesson than the school teacher's frustrated cry: 'Pay Attention!'.

Important too to not be in judgment of our fellow beings either. Compassion is important. One concerns one's self with your honesty and not being the next one to say 'that's how things are'. The world truly is what we make it.



Jillian Aira Gabo
(Mar 30, 2011) The Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals is the group responsible for posting this statement all over the country (http://www.bcbp-phil.com/?p=3387) :)





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