The benefits of honesty

When today’s contributor was tempted to fudge some numbers on a financial document, a last-minute decision to do the right thing led to unexpected benefits and a lesson in the spiritual power of honesty.

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Why be honest? It seems there are some pretty compelling reasons not to be. Sometimes it might feel as if being dishonest can get us somewhere – like a shortcut to reaching a goal or getting ahead without having to work for it.

Several years ago I got caught up in this kind of thinking myself. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was tempted to do something totally out of character and fudge some numbers on an important document to prevent a serious financial shortfall. I rationalized it by thinking that no one would ever know.

But when it came right down to it, I couldn’t be dishonest. I felt so guilty even thinking about it that at the last minute I entered the correct numbers. As soon as I mailed the document, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief, even though I had no idea how I’d deal with the financial situation.

What I learned from this experience is the value of honesty even when it looks as though we can get ahead by being dishonest. More than just relief, I felt something deeper, too: a sense that choosing honesty was touching base with the rock of my very being.

From my study of Christian Science I’ve learned that God, or divine Truth, is the source of our real being. Therefore, the impetus to do right is actually part of our true, spiritual nature. We are created by God to express Godlikeness, to reflect God’s nature. Making morally upright decisions, including being honest, is a natural way of living our spiritual individuality. Doing so is not only the right thing to do; it is empowering, which is a point made by the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” She says: “Honesty is spiritual power. Dishonesty is human weakness, which forfeits divine help” (p. 453).

Why is honesty spiritual power? Because being honest lines up our thoughts with God, who is both infinite good and divine Truth. By contrast, dishonesty closes our eyes to the unlimited good that really is available to all.

When we open up to God’s goodness and truth, we find that limitations fall away because we see more of the limitless nature of the Divine. As we become conscious of the fact that the infinite is available to us, we realize that nothing truly good can be beyond our reach. To me that means that ultimately there is no reason to be dishonest. Right where there seems to be lack, infinite good is already present and available.

I felt the truth of this in my experience with the financial document. It wasn’t just that I felt relief after not fudging those numbers. Something amazing happened that year. Shortly after I made the decision to be honest, an unexpected monetary gift came in the mail that more than made up for the financial shortfall.

To me, this wasn’t a lucky break or a one-time thing just for me. It points to a universal spiritual law that includes everyone, everywhere. Science and Health assures us, “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals” (p. 13). You might say being honest paves the way for divine Love’s care to appear in our lives in practical ways. And by extension, expressing honesty will have an impact, however modest, on the world around us.

As we follow this path of thinking and acting more in line with divine Truth, we’ll discover that there’s power in God-inspired honesty to uplift, strengthen, and elevate us individually and collectively.

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Dear Reader,

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.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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