I have what I suppose is a somewhat interesting approach to the idea of honesty. I think that almost anything that is said is a promise. If you say you’ll do something, it’s a promise. If you say you’ll be somewhere, it’s a promise.
Now of course there ARE degrees here. Things like saying of course you’ll go to that party next year, count on it! are quite different to saying things like “I’ll always be here if you need me”, or “I’ll be there for your brother’s diagnosis”. What I’m trying to say is that if you say something that has real weight to either party involved, it’s a promise. I’m not holding myself to go to that party next year. I’m not holding myself to the quick “Yeah, we’ll make sure to catch up in the New Year”. But if there’s significance to something, it’s a promise. If you only say it to end a conversation, get someone out of your house, whatever – it doesn’t matter – you’d better hold yourself too it, because that should stick.
I keep this attitude because it’s important. If you say you are going to do something for somebody you need to do it. If you say you’ll keep a secret, it’s vital you do so. The word is integrity. It’s a good word. A strong word. A hard word – it syllables seem almost disconnected. It’s not something you can slur lightly. And it’s not something to be undertaken lightly, either. A promise isn’t just saying the words “I promise”. A promise is a definite. An “I will” should be a promise.
Taking this more towards the idea of honesty, this particular, definite definition of meaning shapes my idea of lying. If you go through your days trying your damn hardest not to say something you construe as a promise that you can’t keep, you get an idea of sanctity. The sanctity of conversation. Anything said to another person, anything verbalised at all, should be true. It should be completely true. And I try to live my life by that. I think it’s really important to keep things straight. Because I want to know that, if I have to ask a difficult question, it’s going to be answered truthfully and honestly. There’s an unspoken agreement between the entire world as it stands – say what you like about the little stuff, but when you’re asked a real question – a weighted question – please answer it honestly.
I suppose I’ve taken that to the next level in that I’ll try not to outright lie about anything at all. I just don’t like to. As I say, sanctity of the spoken word and all that.
I’m not saying I’m entirely honest – nobody is honest all the time, that would make the world fall apart – but I’m saying I don’t lie. The trick is to tell parts of the truth in such a way as to give a completely different answer to the whole truth. This often involves a little foresight. If you want to go out and do something your parents or significant other or whatever has asked you not to do, go out and buy some milk on the way. When asked what you were doing, you just say you’d gone out to get some milk. Leave out the 15 cigarettes you smoked on the way, or whatever it is. Or go to the gig with your cousin, and then just say you were out catching up. But don’t fabricate any detail, and don’t lie if the questioning goes into specifics. If I’m asked a direct question, I’ll answer it truthfully. If there’s no way out without falsehood, you’ll get the answer. Learn to fear the direct question.
You’re doing absolutely nothing that isn’t shared by the majority of the human race, but you’re keeping your integrity whilst you’re doing it. It means that when people ask the big questions, the important questions, they trust your answers implicitly. And that trust is such a wonderful thing. And it makes people more likely to be honest with you, as well. People tell you things because they know you’ll tell them the truth, and they know it won’t go further. You are able to be in the middle of disputes and still get along with both sides, because each knows you’re completely transparent with both.
I remember when two close friends of mine in a relationship were splitting up, and it was nasty, yet I kept the friendship of both, overtly, even during the process. Because I’d told both not to share anything with me they were afraid the other could learn about – but also because they were aware that if they did and the other asked I’d simply tell em it wasn’t my place to share. And they trusted that.
This isn’t supposed to be me holding myself and masturbating wildly over how great I am. It was supposed to be an observation about the level of casual lying needed to survive, but I couldn’t help but think of a character in a Terry Pratchett novel called William DeWorde. And that made me think how I’ve subconsciously based my behaviour off him – the whole not lying straight thing – and it kind of escalated into that from there. I do think that’s a good policy, though.