Is Honesty Always the Best Policy?

“Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people.” (Proverbs 11:3 NLT)

“Honest” Abe Lincoln believed “Honesty is the best policy,” but is it? Couple that with Proverbs 12:22 that says: “The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in those who tell the truth.” I’ve heard people say things like: “This is the honest truth.” Is there another kind of truth? Or make reference to someone who has “twisted” the truth. Am I suggesting that we should deliberately be dishonest or hide the truth? Absolutely not! However, I do believe there are times to keep our mouths shut, or if we must speak, be honest with grace.

A friend, whom I believe to be a godly man, shared that when his wife came home after getting her hair cut, he was compelled to tell her it made her look five years older. In his words, “It was my honest opinion.” She hadn’t asked his opinion, he just volunteered it, but his “honesty” cost him a night in the guest room! That story had a happy ending, because his wife is forgiving and understanding, and, yes, he gave me permission to share it. But it illustrates something I believe happens too often in the Body of Christ.

Sometimes it’s just better to keep our “honest” opinions to ourselves, because, unfortunately, far too often we end up sharing them with the wrong people or at the wrong time. That, my friend, becomes a rabbit hole called “gossip,” and it’s an abomination to our Father in heaven.

Paul writes in Romans 1:28-29: “Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, He abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip.” The verses continue to list other abominations, but, hopefully, these will suffice to help us get a context for what God thinks of gossip.

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The plot thickens because there are times when technically the words are truthful. For example, let’s say Bill and Helen, who are both married to other people, are seen at a restaurant together. Someone could see them and assume they’re having an affair and feel “led” to share what they saw with someone else on a social media platform. One thing leads to another and before long some “loving” person goes to Bill and Helen’s spouses to deliver the “bad” news.

The conversations begin something like this: “I hate to be the one to tell you, but did you know…?” To which the spouses respond, “Of course we knew, Helen wanted to speak with Bill about a job opportunity she knew was opening at her company. Both of their schedules are crazy and their lunch meeting at the restaurant was all that made sense. We were invited but thought it would be better if they had privacy to discuss the job together. And by the way, of what concern is that to you?”

The truth is, they met at a restaurant. What someone saw became gossip when they didn’t bother to get the facts before publishing what they “thought” they saw. To me, and I believe to God, the sickest and saddest is when these morsels of gossip become couched in the form of a “prayer request.”

“We’ve got to pray for Bill and Helen and their dear spouses. Why I saw them together…” In God’s sight that’s a wickedness that rivals greed, hate, envy, and murder. The right thing to do, especially if it’s someone you know well and know their character, is to give them the benefit of the doubt, and keep your thoughts to yourself. But if it’s questionable and your genuine interest is their wellbeing and reputation, always go to the person(s) involved first. And while it may not be any of your business, give them an opportunity for you to tell them what it looked like and allow them to give an explanation if they deem one is necessary.

Just understand that there are times when you can be 100% truthful and 100% honest and still be 100% wrong. The best thing in EVERY situation is go to the Lord FIRST, then follow His directives cautiously and with much grace.

Blessings, Ed 😊

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