Has honesty become irrelevant?

A GUEST POST from my friend Hardik on his experience with honesty.

Two honest acts were termed as foolishness, unrealistic and even rebuked for not having value for money.

Act 1: A few days ago, while driving my car to pick my cousin from a hotel, a traffic policeman stopped me and asked to pay a fine for having tinted glasses on the car windows. I argued that it was within the limit as prescribed by law. Following my argument he showed me a detailed High Court judgement wherein it states of any usage of Photo film on car glasses is banned. I relented and was ready to pay the fine but he started asking me some random questions. After a few minutes, he bluntly offered to wrap the matter in Rs.50. I told him to issue me a penalty receipt for which I paid Rs. 200. He juggled over it and later looked sheepishly as I left.

Act 2: I had gone to pick up my cousin and his wife from a hotel. As we drove some distance, my cousin got a call from the hotel reception for a small unpaid amount because of miscalculation. He stopped the car and went back for payment before we went back home. He murmured about the bill amount but was satisfied with his action.

In both the above acts, opposite actions would have resulted in monetary benefit. However neither of us thought otherwise for no other reason except that we felt that was the right thing to do.

I shared these incidents with family, friends and relatives to understand their prospective or frankly speaking what they might have done. Most of them rebuked me for my actions and few taunted me also. They advised me to be practical in dealing with these situations and said that such actions would never yield any results.

I was appalled by this outcome and questioned my own actions. I discussed with a friend and here at least I found solace because of a different perspective – ethics, values and morality are for self and not a showpiece for others.

Honesty was one of first words taught in my school during Moral Science sessions. I also realized that most of the stories in literature deal with honesty and truth.

I recalled one incident when my young nephew found a big error in a restaurant bill and I asked him what he wanted to do with it. Smartly he gave me 2 choices – (a) monetary benefit and (b) honesty. When I selected (b), he smirked.

During my search for a life partner, I met many girls and in conversation regarding our expectations, they would always mention honesty as supreme above anything. Once, when I asked the meaning, one of them defined it as “always speaking truth, not hiding anything, being open, sharing everything…”

But what about honesty in daily action? What about doing the right thing even when it causes a personal loss?

Maybe the definition of honesty has narrowed just as we have narrowed our thinking in life.

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7 thoughts on “Has honesty become irrelevant?

  1. Dear Hardik,

    It is true that many times righteous actions can lead to terrible consequences. But that has to be seen in context of Karma, as past catches up with people. Our understanding of what is right is limited by our understanding of the situation, which is not the whole story. So in absence of such knowledge we can only do is what appears to be right, without too much thinking about consequences and let destiny take it’s course. Act without expecting any benefits is the central theme of Dharma.

    Equally important is focus on central issue. When Bhagavan Shri Krushna told Arjuna to kill Karna, who was trying to pull out his chariot stuck in mud, Arjuna argued about his Kshatriya Dharma, that is when Bhagavan Shri Krushna told him the famous saying:” You have said that you have surrendered yourself to me then what is this Kshtriya dharma?”

    The bottom line is unless one is guided by divine beings, he or she should follow what is considered right thing to do by society in general. Although what is right according to society also keep changing. The key issue is a person should not be carried away by greed, anger, prejudice etc.

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  2. Bravo to your friend. If more individuals pay heed to total honesty and not monetary gain, we would have less corruption and more law abiding and a fair civic society.  Thanks for sharing  the experiences. I have had many such  and have been enriched  in that myside inner and outer  Self are not in conflict, though its  hard and  difficult road Priti. 

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  3. Honest acts such as you have described are what allows a civilization to continue ….Stick to your values!

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  4. Honesty is essential component for long term survival of any society. Society is like any building structure and honesty is mortar that keeps it in shape. Erosion of honesty should be considered like weakening of mortar. A weakened structure will not collapse immediately, but it will over a period of time. So are societies. History is full of examples of countries losing war because of lack of honesty at different levels.

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    1. I agree with the comments for long term survival of society, however the our society tends to see things in right/wrong perspective which aganist our Indic model which is about cause/consequences. Most righteous actions can lead to terrible consequences not for us but those around us. Eg. In Mahabharata Krishna has helped Pandavas against Kauravas, however the consequences resulted into death of all Pandavas children & a curse on Krishna’s household. – (Ref. http://www.devdutt.com)
      How will Society view the things? Should it matter to individuals.

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