Honesty Is the Best Policy Essay

Outline:

  • Honesty in all spheres of life
  • It pays
  • Honesty as distinguished from commercial honesty
  • Cultivate honesty when young
  • Confidence and true honesty
  • Honesty in action

What does this mean? What is policy? Is it true that honesty is the best way to worldly success? Is worldly or material success the true aim of our existence in this world? What are our final conclusions? They will differ with different theories of life.

A man who is honest is truly courageous. He may not be a great warrior or a hero, but he has undoubtedly won a great victory over lies. Those who believe that honesty has no significance outside the realm of pecuniary considerations have a very poor conception of it indeed. If the prestige of honesty is to be retained it is essential that it should be initiated in all the spheres of life. A man who is honest with his friends, but dishonest with strange cannot be called honest.

A man who is honest in every transaction of life in the long run meets with success and has really more chances of achieving success than the most artful knave with whom everything may go on well for the time being. Dishonesty is often anomalously seen to succeed more than honesty, but this anomaly can be readily accounted for by remembering that a dishonest knave may deceive the unwary ones but cannot expect to repeat this trick a second time. “Once bitten, twice shy.” Dishonesty may have a term but honesty is best in the long run. Honesty gives the man favored with it that peace of mind, which millions cannot purchase. All admire integrity and an honest man is always given allowances in the hour of need. It is said, Oliver Goldsmith’s publishers gave him a hundred guineas for his poem the “Deserted Village”. When a friend told Goldsmith that the sum was too large, he immediately sent it back. The publishers were so much struck with this magnanimity that they paid him dollar 453 when the books were sold off.

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The man who is honest merely for the sake of policy cannot really be called so, for politics honesty is only a species of dissimilation, hypocrisy or selfishness and is superficial eye service on which no reliance can be placed. The motive of such a man is profit and not the moral rectitude, which characterizes a truly genuine heart.

A businessman who is honest in his dealings with his customers and dishonest in his dealings with his fellow businessman is doing so with some motives of personal gain and is only a shrewd businessman and nothing more.

To teach men to be honest should be the aim of all true education. “Classroom honesty goes to the grave” is a well-known adage. If children are taught to be honest they will not find it difficult to be so throughout their lives.

If a man is honest with himself, he cannot help but honest with others. Anyone understanding or overrating his merits cannot be said to be honest with himself and in ninety-nine cases out of hundred such a man is dishonest with others or at least dishonest in his estimation of others. An honest man earns the confidence of those with whom he deals and of those who deal with him, and success is the handmaid of confidence that he enjoys.

Honesty is the quality and principle, which agrees with honour and esteem, more than with any set of ostensible actions. An honest man is therefore a good man. But at the same time we must not forget Wyatt’s advice to his son:

“Follow not the common reputation of honesty which is for the most part no honesty at all, but if you seem honest, be honest or else seem as you are.”

Honesty, however, does not consist only in not telling lies it consists too in being faithful to one’s ideals in life. A man, who believing in nationalism, did not buy Indian goods even when he had to make a little sacrifice in the way of extra money or slightly rougher quality, could not be called no honest man, since he would be betraying his innermost conviction simply to please his eyes or save himself of even rupees five.

In the same way, it is not enough simply to be dependable on money matters. However honest as far as money is concerned, be a man who flattered a scoundrel, whom he fundamentally despised, just to be able to call an influential man he would be quite as dishonest as a thief from the moral point of view. Honesty is a point morally quite as much as a point of economics.

Nations, as well as individuals, have proposed from honest action. The diplomatic intrigues of the West did succeed as well as Palmerston’s bluntness did. The truth of the matter is that the people possess a natural political sense by which they can inevitably tell the good from the bad in man. Honesty is the best policy with the people because quacks and charlatans are always found out. It is a true enough proverb:

“You can fool some of the people all the time, and all people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.”

The life of almost every dishonest politician in the world has proved it, from Nero to Ramsay Macdonald. This is a deep and philosophic problem for a schoolboy to settle. Philosophers and poets have been discussing it for many years. Is life so arranged that the honest man always receives his reward in the long run, and is the wicked man sure to be punished? The tragedies of Shakespeare show that good and virtuous men come to ruin in many cases, and are not protected by any divine power.

The sight is familiar to all of the unscrupulous merchants who build up a fortune by dishonest practices, and often we see the honest man overcome by bad luck. Life is arranged that way of course the dishonest member of society is in many cases discovered and punished, and the honourable worker does insufficient instances enjoy prosperity and rewards. But there are frequent cases where it works the other way, to make us decide that honesty is not always the best policy, if by that we mean the best road to worldly success.

The question arises, is worldly prosperity so important as all this? Is an important position, with riches and power, the greatest thing to be desired? Is worldly success the goal of honesty? The whole value of honourable conduct would be lost if men only adopted it in the hope of profit. True honour should not look for rewards, and the joy of noble action is a far higher prize than can ever be expressed in terms of rupees. Honesty is the greatest virtue, but may not always lead to material rewards.

Again we advise the doubting onės to read Shakespeare. His plays show fine characters ruined by adverse fortune; they are lost just as surely as the workers of evil. Shakespeare knew the injustice of life. Tennyson knew this also, but advised us that:

“Because of right a right, to follow right

Were wisdom in the scorn of consequence.”

We can only conclude by saying that honesty is the greatest virtue in life, but will not always be rewarded, though if we believe that man goes on to life eternal, his reward will surely await him in higher spheres. Do not the holy Books teach us that riches and luxury are but worthless toys?

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