Friday, August 7, 2009

Honesty Breeds Integrity

It's true we all lie, even the most honest of us. I personally believe in full disclosure and I pride myself in being an honest person, but even so I'll lie. You know those questions you get asked in small-talk conversations. Those "Have you seen...?" and "Do you know...?" and "Have you heard of...?" questions. Sometimes I'll just nod my head "yes" when I have no idea what the person is talking about. It's mostly for the sake of expediency, to allow the person to get to the point without having to further explain themselves, but it's a lie nonetheless. Don't act like you haven't done this. I think partially we want to be included - we want to be in-the-know - and its an easy lie to tell, especially since it's a one word answer. I feel silly when I find myself doing this. Maybe it has something to do with how much I hate small talk. I think honestly I just want to skip all the who-knows-what and get to the good stuff... or just get away depending on the situation. This habit of course pales in comparison to the addictive and compulsive habit of telling flat out lies about ones life, but if left unchecked who knows how it could grow. A tiny seed can become a giant tree - it's natures way for things to grow, however bad or good. The point is we all have the propensity to fib, and when we do it can really take a toll on our character.

When I was a teenager I used to lie a lot. I was pretty good at it too. I would make sure that everyone had the peachiest picture of me, even though I wasn't so peachy. I used to withhold truths from Kristie, things I knew she would have liked to know. She always found out about these things at a later date, which made the truth that much harder for her to deal with. Anytime the truth has time to marinate, it will always hit harder. Contrary to meat marination, truth always tastes much worse over time. It will always hurt more. The thing about Kristie finding things out after the fact was that it hurt our trust, and trust is the most important ingredient in any relationship. Without trust, you will fail. Because of my betrayal of her trust she would end up scrutinizing my every decision, passing it through a field of questions, wondering if it was truth or if I was covering something up. I guess she was hoping to unveil anything that might hurt sooner, so that it wouldn't have the chance to hurt more later. Turns out the withholding of the truth to "protect Kristie from being hurt" (which was really a selfish justification) only made things worse for me. She would get hurt anyways, only making it a bigger mess to clean up. When she inevitably found things out it would hurt the both of us - myself more deservedly so. However, without those hurtful lessons I wouldn't have learned anything. I'd still be a schmuck.

Without trust it took a lot more effort for me to do anything without suspicion. I was a slave and it was terrible, so I did something dramatic. I decided to start telling her the truth. Pretty soon I learned that I had to tell Kristie everything - especially things that I knew she would like to know -if I wanted to be free from the burden of suspicion. She would like to know who I was with, if I drank too much, smoked something funny or did something stupid. It was absolutely freeing. What's wonderful about Kristie is that as I disclosed things I was ashamed of she offered immediate grace (Of course, it helps to have a partner who understands Christ-like grace). I know that grace would have turned to righteous criticism if I had waited to disclose the information, so I continued to be honest. The thing about that practice, the honest one, is that I started to NOT want to do things that would hurt her. Wierd, I know. No longer would I justify my actions with things like: I'll think of something to say. If she found out she'd only be upset. She doesn't need to worry. Instead I would be in a situation and I would think, I'm going to have to tell Kristie this, and then she's going to forgive me and give me that sweet-but-hurt-at-the-same-time face and I'll feel like a jerk. So I wouldn't do it. The thought of that started to stop me in my tracks. I'd think about my actions, and because of my trend of being honest I was forced into rethinking my lifestyle. Honesty breeds integrity. Suddenly, my word started to mean something. What I told her became exactly what I did, and vice versa, because of my new habit of honesty.

The story I was telling about myself became the true story of my life. No longer could I hide behind the "peachy picture" I used to paint. I wanted a good story, and I had to learn to live one instead of just telling one. Once my "peachy picture" was exposed for the ugly truth, there was no turning back, I had to paint a real one.

Ten years later, I can think of countless admissions of guilt and struggle that were met by grace each time. It is easy to extend grace for her admissions as well. The thing about Kristie is that she is to the core a fundamentally honest person, so I've never had to fish anything out of her. This is probably due in part to the fact that she's a terrible liar. She doesn't even try. Even a surprise purchase on the credit card gets broadcasted with a loud and sheepish "Nothiiiiinnnng" when I walk through the door. I always find it hilarious, so it's hard to be mad. Of course, it is also incredibly manipulative to play on my weaknesses with cute voices, and I've been meaning to talk with her about this, but every time I try she puts on this really cute baby voice and I'm rendered useless. All jokes aside, and to risk making a fairly obvious statement, honesty has built our individual characters and strengthened the trust between us. There is ultimate freedom in our trust, which (to be obvious again) is the great reward for being trustworthy.

If you want to develop character - to be a leader or see your dreams come to fruition - you have to be honest. Familiarize yourself with your weaknesses. Consult people who know better than you if you must, but be real about who you are. Honesty breeds integrity, and people with integrity are extremely rare these days.


  1. i love what you wrote Matt! I always try to be honest with people, but i end up lying too.

    but i find it interesting how like a week ago, i was talking about trust and honesty with a friend, basically saying the same things as you. And to hear it from a person that i look up to is a reassurance that honesty is noble and trust is good!

    and also, the world does need more people with integrity these days

    ~Peace 'n' Love~

  2. often times, it's simple things like "oh, i'll have to tell my wife about this", or "my parents will get mad if i go there", or "i'll hurt my friend if i do that" that keep us out of things we shouldn’t be doing- and i absolutely believe that it's better to be motivated this way than to keep going in the wrong direction- but that kind of raw *preventative* mindset is a very, very thin thread to hang onto. (i speak from experience.) to do things- or not to do things- solely out of consideration for other people will only keep you away from your temptations for so long, either, 1, because you eventually disregard their feelings/care for you, or, 2, figure that they'll never find out. people also fall away easily- friends get in fights, couples break up, people get divorced. say, for example, that the only reason a guy stops smoking pot is because his girlfriend doesn’t like it- the minute they break up and she no longer means anything to him, he’ll fall back into that pit.

    so, wouldn’t the idea be to find someone whose care for you you could never disregard, and who already knew everything? who would never fall away, whom you’d have to tell everything you’d been doing one day... someone you hurt more excruciatingly than anyone else every time you do something like that...


  3. Hey Matt. What do you believe in spiritually?

  4. Honesty can be scary. There is something very vulnerable about being completely truthful.
    Me, I have a problem with lying through omission.

    As in, ‘Why does the kitchen smell like that?’
    “Oh, sorry. I was making popcorn and burned some of it.” (…when I left the pot of oil over the flame too long and had to run to cover it because the contents were on fire and I was scared that you would find out and think I was being careless and so I opened up all the windows in the apartment to try and let the smoke smell out and hoped you wouldn’t notice.)

    I was afraid…and so I hid.

  5. i lied to go undercover and keep an eye on my acquaintance who threatened suicide many times. one part of me decided it was right. i mean, wouldn't i lie to protect Jews from Nazis in WWII?yet it seemed like all my pastor preached about around that time was integrity and honesty.confusion resulted. either way, THANKS for writing this. i want to be trustworthy.

  6. dude, you are boss. that honestly made my day.

  7. That, my long lost friend, was beautifully written. I remember those days where we had an image about us that we were sure we had to uphold. I also remember the graciousness with which Kristie dealt with all those situations you hit her with.

    Bless You,


  8. The thing about being truthful in every situation is the fact that no one wants to admit their failures, mistakes, shortcomings, oversights or selfishness. So it's much easier to tell that little white lie than to take responsibility for one's imperfections. Unfortunately white lies have a tendency to multiply into a web of lies. You are quite right about honesty breeding integrity and that people with integrity are mavericks these days! Again you amaze me with your insight!