The Value of Honesty

MY mother had a vase she especially cherished, even though it had a broken top. It reminded her of something more valuable than art treasures. Mother had acquired the vase when my brother was about three. It was placed on the mantel and he was told never to touch it. But one day when no one was around, he climbed up to look at the vase more closely. It fell and its top broke.

My little brother was very upset. He knew he had disobeyed and broken the vase. Instead of hiding his transgression, however, he went straight to Mother and told her what he had done. My mother was so happy about his honesty that she forgave him immediately. She knew he had learned one of the most valuable lessons he would ever learn--to be truthful. He had also learned the importance of obedience.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, firmly underlines the importance of moral education in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures when she writes, ''The entire education of children should be such as to form habits of obedience to the moral and spiritual law, with which the child can meet and master the belief in so-called physical laws, a belief which breeds disease'' (p. 62).

As children my brother and I both saw the value of honesty when we realized that our parents trusted us to tell the truth. We were sometimes horrified in school when we had to prove our honesty because our integrity was not taken for granted. We expected to be trusted.

For all of us, whether children or adults, both honesty and trust are essential in our relationships, in business, social affairs, as well as family interactions. Even when we have done something wrong, correcting our mistakes is easier when we are honest about what we have done and sincere in our desire to make amends. If, on the other hand, dishonesty has become so habitual that we feel no remorse for our actions or seek to escape their consequences, in the long run we suffer even more. One of the saddest consequences of not being trustworthy is that one loses the ability to trust others and becomes mired in a swamp of fear and suspicion.

Our honesty, however, is a protection even when others do not trust us. Integrity, whether recognized or not, is backed by God's power. Prayer leads us to the loving solution when we think honesty could hurt someone. God does not make us choose either kindness or honesty or intelligence. God is Love, Truth, and Mind, and these aspects of His nature never exclude one another. And because we are, in fact, God's beloved creation, we must be like Him. This means that we do need to express the God-given qualities we have as His reflection.

Some manufacturers have established an expectation for ''zero defects.'' We need the same total commitment to honesty as our standard, not only for our own behavior but for our expectations of others. Trust is a peaceful compliment. Our own standards of truthfulness and honesty do impel others to be more truthful and honest. Just as love attracts love, so truth attracts truthfulness. It is not so much an insistence that other people be honest that is needed as it is a persistence in recognizing that every one of God's children already reflects Truth's honesty. In reality we are all ideas of God. In our real, spiritual selfhood we cannot be anything but honest. Nor can anyone expect anything less from us.

We can see the Commandments as both admonitions to ourselves and as prayerful protection. When, for example, we read in Exodus: ''Thou shalt not steal'' or ''Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour'' (20:15, 16), we can see the command to ourselves, I shall not steal, or bear false witness. But the Commandments also convey the assurance that when we are obedient to them we don't have to be afraid of suffering from someone else's behavior in not obeying them. Dishonesty is no part of anyone's real character. Holding to this truth heals dishonesty and suspicion and enables Truth to shine through every aspect of our lives. It is important to let our honesty show, but it is also vital to pray that the Truth we reflect from God is seen by all. Honesty and trust work together. They are more valuable than things.

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