Our parents, teachers, grandmothers and grandfathers-everyone has advocated this oft-quoted policy- honesty. The virtuous woodcutter’s story and his acquisition of the silver and the golden axes in addition to his own plain wooden axe are a few childhood tales that never fail to inspire one. When I was a child, I believed that honesty was the best possible virtue. As I grew up, I found this saying being tweaked a little to mean that “honesty is the best policy but with a little bit of common sense.” I began to teach myself this new brand of honesty that negated absolute honesty and strove to replace it with a more canny honesty. After all, the world today can’t be run by simpletons. It requires one to learn the art of dissimulation. But I have another proposal. I want to tender yet another brand of honesty.
The legend would go like : Honesty is the best policy but with a little bit of common sense AND a little less of arrogance.
Actually, honesty requires an accompanying virtue, another H word. The most underrated virtue-yes, I am talking of humility.
I have often encountered people- even relatives and friends, who recount their experiences: ‘I have so scrupulously maintained the organization. My arrangements were faultless. She had no right to bully me that way in the presence of so many bigwigs. How dare she? Who does she think she is? I have burnt the midnight oil to get everything just right…” So went the grievances of someone who had been upbraided on a mismanaged event and who claimed to be blameless. Then there are many such who would boast about their benevolent actions and sincerity towards their job or family or whatever else is important to them and simply roll out a list of how dedicated and honest they have been in their dealings.
“I never took a penny! Not a single extra penny from my brother when the property was split! Even though I had helped him financially many a time!” they would scream indignantly.
Okay let’s take the first case. The man had worked honestly and sincerely towards his managerial responsibilities. However, an event went wrong. And he had to face flak. Was it so hard to accept that even though he had been honest, things went wrong? Why did it have to hurt his vanity?
Then the caring honest elder brother who didn’t extract a single extra penny from his younger brother even though he felt he had earned the right to do so, having got him out of tough spots every now and then. I ask him- was it a feat to be honest? Did he expect to be awarded a trophy for it? If he didn’t demand extra money, it was decent of him but it was nothing extraordinary. He didn’t need to make a big deal of it. Honesty is for honesty’s sake. Not for boasting about it or pandering to one’s ego. Honesty 2.0 is a version in which people are honest not because being so gives them some rights to lord over others or expect extra benefits somehow. It is about people being not just people but humans. It is about injecting a little bit of humanity in this era when love is almost an agreement or a give-and-take thing, when relationship is a barter system and when being good comes with expectations of trophies and goodies. We need a revamped value system. Probably like Values 2.0 !