Honesty and progress

A Christian Science perspective: A response to the Monitor’s View ‘The year of living more honestly.’

Across the globe, nations have been demanding more transparency and accountability – in their leaders, in governments, in businesses and organizations – according to the latest report from the Corruption Perceptions Index. Overall, more countries are declining in corruption, and the citizens who have demanded integrity of leaders have inspired others throughout the world.

“As more countries have moved to end a culture of impunity, other people around the globe have also insisted on integrity in public life,” wrote the Monitor’s Editorial Board. “The Internet is an excellent enabler of this trend. But more than that, honesty is its own force multiplier” (“The year of living more honestly,” CSMonitor.com).

To me, this speaks of the power of honesty that goes beyond any sense of moral obligation or societal acceptance. It’s actually the foundation for progress. Without honesty, there is no truth on which to build – no foundation on which progress can proceed. Companies, organizations, and leaders who build on corruption may believe they are gaining power or success in the short term, but lies ultimately break down in the long term because they are built on fabrications – on nothing – and lies naturally devolve, forfeiting any power we seemed to have gained by the lie.

“Honesty is spiritual power. Dishonesty is human weakness...,” writes Mary Baker Eddy, discoverer of Christian Science and founder of this publication (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 453).

A small example from my youth may help illustrate this larger truth: After switching schools, I was asked by my new math teacher if I had been introduced to the ideas of multiplication and division. It was a simple question, but I lied and said, “Yes.” Maybe it was because I was afraid or embarrassed about what the teacher and students would think of me for not knowing something. Maybe I thought I would gain something out of giving the answer the teacher wanted to hear – but the effect was quite the opposite: My lie was a loss. For obvious reasons my math grades fell, but in other ways, so did my confidence and outlook on life. Rather than admit to my mistake, I struggled for years in the wrong math class.

It wasn’t until one year, when a teacher invited students to speak with her after class about understanding the material, that I came clean. After setting aside my pride and taking a real honest look at myself, I spoke truthfully with the teacher and realized what needed to be done. Moving down a math level could have felt like defeat – perhaps my transcript would look less impressive to colleges without that Advanced Placement course or I wouldn’t be as close to my friends who were in that higher-level class – but I actually felt free. In the new class, I was finally able to grasp what I needed to learn. But more than this, I was able to set my fears aside, correct my mistake, and build on what I had learned. As quickly as the lie was corrected, I was able to produce good work, contribute in class, even help other classmates who struggled with concepts. I felt a freedom in being humble enough to admit wrongdoing, and I was able to progress and succeed as a result. I kept my friends, and I graduated as one of the top in my class.

In its most profound sense, honesty proceeds from Truth, another name for God, which the Bible describes as having all power (see Deuteronomy 32:4). In starting with Truth, no one demonstrated the power of God better than Christ Jesus, who healed sinners and even reformed corrupt officials, as was the case with Zacchæus (see Luke 19:2-10). His healing work showed that each and every one of us has the innate ability to overcome wrongdoing, because we all, in truth, come from God. We each have the strength to take an honest look at ourselves and build on Truth’s foundation, instead of on the fears, greed, or pride of human weakness.

Ultimately, practicing honesty becomes a force for good because it comes from God, Truth. Even in the smallest of affairs, we can experience the power of honesty for ourselves – in our own lives as well as in uncovering and defeating corruption. Only by building on what is real and true can we succeed in achieving true progress.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

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