What does that mean for most of us? Is a half-truth or a ‘white lie’ really just a lie – honesty, like fairness, can mean different things to all of us.
Most of us expect honesty from others in our life although if someone has grown up in a family or community where a lot of people lie, that can be an expectation too. They often don’t trust people, having learnt from a young age that people don’t tell the truth or indeed, behave fairly.
When we’re honest, it can often keep us out of trouble as well as give us credibility – if we’re in a difficult or embarrassing position, people are more likely to believe us if we’re known to be honest. Honesty can also mean freedom as most people realise when they finally divulge the truth to someone that they’ve previously lied to. If we have a sense of trust, it leads to better communication which enables us to feel closer to people we like and love.
So what stops us being honest? Sometimes we avoid it because we’re scared of what other people might think about us or we might be trying to avoid responsibility for something that we’ve done or might be asked to do. Basically, we’re trying to avoid conflict but learning to deal with possible conflicting situations is part of being an adult and realising that some things can be dealt with assertively without getting into an argument.
Fairness is part of this too – it encourages co-operation between us and without it, some of our social structure is at risk. If we trust someone to behave fairly, or know that a system is fair, we feel it’s worthwhile giving in order to receive justice or co-operation. For any group, fairness is crucial and if people feel they’re being treated differently, naturally they’ll feel resentment to the extent of not being part of that group. Honesty about feelings also plays a part here – how are other group members going to know that you perceive some things are dealt with unfairly if you’re not honest (and assertive) enough to verbalise your feelings?
Our instinct is to say “well, they should just know that things aren’t fair” but, surprisingly, a lot of people don’t realise until it’s pointed out to them. Often they will resent being pulled up on it but hopefully, with mutual respect, they will be able to make changes towards a more honest plan for the future.
Most people don’t mind working if they’re being properly compensated for their work and also, even more importantly, feel that others doing the same tasks are paid at the same rate.
In voluntary groups where people aren’t paid for their work, it’s important that people feel that the work that they do is apportioned fairly between the members, rather than one or two people taking on most of the tasks. This is a common complaint about groups inasmuch as some people feel that others don’t pull their weight – again, honesty expressed in a positive way, is a good way of dealing with it although others will put up resistance; it’s in their own interests to do so!
So, how do you feel when someone jumps a queue? Some people might say that extenuating circumstances make that admissible but others will disagree. Those circumstances might involve an explanation from the person jumping in front and, knowing that they might ‘get away with it’ they might lie about their reasons. Can we always sense this with other fellow human beings? Do we know when we’re being lied to and does it incense us? I think the answer’s “yes” but what do you think?
Do you expect your friends to be fair and honest and do you feel that you treat people honestly
fairly and equally?
Feeling that “life’s not fair” is hard for people to come to terms with – we feel that it “should” be fair, even though it’s not. Accepting that some things can’t be blamed on others is part of counselling and psychotherapy, as it helps clients to deal with people who behave unjustly and jeopardise some part of their lives.
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