Exploring the strength of Honesty

Consider your personal and professional relationships; how do you make and honor your commitments and agreements?

How easy can you take responsibility for mistakes when you make them? {When you take responsibility, how do you feel afterward, the next day, the next week? When you do not take responsibility, how do you feel then?}

How often do you neutralize guilt by making excuses, blaming, minimizing, or rationalizing the truth away? {When was the last time you acted this way, and what was the gain?}

How do you give feedback to others? Is it constructive, direct, or challenging?

Spiritual practices that entail mindfulness, reflection, and enlightenment benefit honesty and authenticity. Explore.

Honesty can be nurtured by modeling and through programs encouraging self-awareness, such as youth development programs.

Honesty is speaking the truth, but more broadly, it is presenting yourself genuinely and sincerely, being without pretense, and taking responsibility for your feelings and actions. See how this sounds to you, “I am an honest person, not only by speaking the truth but by living my life genuinely and authentically. I am down to earth and without pretense; I am a “real” person.”

In conversation, “I refrain from telling small, white lies to friends and family, including insincere compliments. If I do tell one, I admit it and apologize right away.”

As a social actor, “I relate in creative yet honest ways to others. I present myself in a manner that makes me feel authentic.”

You view yourself as being down-to-earth and authentic. There is little pretense, and others know you’re genuine. Your authenticity creates a sense of trust. Being “real” is effortless. However, it is vital to use social intelligence when sharing “truths” with others. Honesty without sensitivity can come across as being blunt or offensive. It can also violate trust when “truths” are told about another shared in confidence.

The strength of integrity is manifested by speaking the truth and genuinely presenting oneself. A person of integrity is open and honest about his or her thoughts, feelings, and responsibilities, careful not to mislead through either action or omission.

Self-monitoring exercises: Rate your satisfaction with authentic, honest, and genuine deeds vs. inauthentic and less honest actions. Use your moment-to-moment level of satisfaction to gauge your integrity.

Monitor every time you tell a lie, even if it is a small one. Try to make your list shorter every day.

Monitor to catch lies of omission (such as not volunteering important information when selling a used item) and think how you would feel if someone did the same to you. Try to be forthcoming in your dealings with others.

Monitor whether your following five significant actions match your words and vice-versa. Try to act in a manner that is consistent with what you say.

Honest people are typically viewed as trustworthy, contributing to healthy, positive relationships. Genuine people are consistently true to themselves and publicly represent their internal state, intentions, and commitments. Honesty allows for a more accurate self-assessment of choices and commitments to others and oneself. This strength enables one to feel a sense of ownership over one’s internal states, regardless of whether those states are popular or socially comfortable, and to experience a sense of authentic wholeness. Taking personal responsibility for one’s actions can lead to a greater sense of control of one’s life. See if this sounds like you, “I think and act fairly when I face a challenge, regardless of its impact on my position or popularity. I put aside my perceptions of peer pressure when making my decision.” “I seek roles with a clear structure that allow me to be authentic and honest. I pursue positions in organizations that foster honest, forthright communication.” “I learn and practice the ethical standards of my profession. I make these standards known to co-workers who do not follow them faithfully.”

Honesty involves the courage to exercise one’s will to accomplish goals in the face of external or internal opposition. Because honesty is a corrective virtue (it protects us against errors in judgment), it shows up best in situations where one must decide between an easy thing and a right thing to do. The complexity of this character strength is often revealed when we consider the multiple roles we play in society and how difficult it is to stick to one’s values consistently.

Exercise for values-congruence: Write on issues about which you feel a moral obligation. It helps to crystalize and integrate thinking.

Identify your area of strongest moral convictions. Set your long-term priorities according to these convictions.

Write about what living an authentic life means to you and reflect on it often.


Overuse of Honesty

Honesty can be blunt and hurtful, and there are times when telling the complete truth can cause problems. In some situations, it may be prudent to soften the bluntness of the fact. Other character strengths offer alternative ways of being/doing good to maintain a balance for honesty. Sometimes the strength of kindness or prudence must take precedence. See if this sounds like you, “In my capacity as a leader, I may not be the most politically strategic person. I may reveal too much information without considering timing, context, and people. I may hurt people’s feelings with my tendency to call things the way I see them bluntly. I may let my feelings of outrage and indignation get the better of me without factoring in the collateral impacts, which often makes me the scapegoat.”


Underuse of Honesty

The truth can sometimes be challenging to face. Therefore truthful people may underuse this strength when they do not want to be hurtful and cannot find a gentle way to express the truth. Some relationships endorse the rule of avoiding the truth since telling the truth would create conflict. These relationships make it difficult for honest people to express themselves authentically. Some people high in honesty may have difficulty with the sense of vulnerability that comes with being truthful about their feelings. Therefore, they may underuse this strength in sharing feelings with others.

Underuse contexts may include where people are not upfront in their intentions, go behind other people’s backs, and act manipulatively; where there is no leeway to express discomfort and vulnerability; where people hide their real intentions and filter or conceal specific reactions to give the appearance of being strong. These underuse contexts will impact the honest person of not feeling authentic, resulting in an overriding need for transparency and integrity and a detriment to wellbeing.


Optimization of Honesty

In your capacity as a leader, you can accentuate this strength by providing clear, sincere feedback to your employees and colleagues; having the courage to speak up and voice disagreement during meetings; owning up to and fixing any mistakes you make; keeping your promises and honoring your commitments, even in extreme circumstances.


Optimal use of Honesty

See if you can affirm this statement, “In my capacity as a leader, at my best, I think, speak, and act with authenticity. My behaviors are always in sync with my core values. People tend to follow in my footsteps and are inspired by who I am and what I do. I say out loud what everyone else is thinking. I keep my promises and honor my commitments to my colleagues.”

“I do what I say and say what I do. My signature strength is Honesty.”