Core Decorum: honesty

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Illustration courtesy of Cecilia Lang.

The great Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky writes in “The Brothers Karamazov” that “the man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

Dostoevsky believes that the purpose of all humankind is to love others, but he recognizes that this requires each of us to love and respect ourselves by being completely honest with ourselves.

Honesty with ourselves can be difficult, since we tend to justify our own actions in our minds without having to worry about the consequences.

However, this honesty is necessary because without it, we would not be fully confident in our choices and actions.

If we lie to ourselves, especially about unhealthy things of which others are unaware, then we are never held accountable for our actions and it becomes easier and easier to lie to ourselves and others.

Lying to ourselves also includes lying to God, since He knows every thought and action that we perform. Not only is this a sin, but it can destroy every good habit that we have spent our lives developing.

More importantly, however, dishonesty can ruin relationships. Even if you do not have the habit of lying to others, lying to yourself and ignoring the truth will undoubtedly have an impact on those around you. This destroys love, which is ultimately a selfless act, by selfishly making it about your own problems.

Dostoevsky’s astute point gets to the heart of the problem with dishonesty.

If you lie to yourself, you will not be able to respect yourself. If you cannot respect yourself, you will not be able to love yourself. If you cannot love yourself, you will not be able to love other people, which is our sole purpose as social individuals on our journey to salvation.

Let us strive to be more honest with ourselves, especially about our faults. This is difficult when these faults are not known to other people, which makes it even more important for building a relationship with ourselves and others, because truth is not subjectively contained in other people’s opinions of us.

Once we can be honest with ourselves about our own weaknesses, we will be able to work to fix them and builds habits that will strengthen our characters.

Ultimately, we will be able to better love ourselves and others, which is the best way to live a happy life.

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