Is any human being ever completely honest? Is it within human capability to be ‘completely honest’? That is, to leave nothing out, and add nothing in?
We lie to get: power, money, sex, the admiration of others (power). Anything else? Oh, yes: to avoid consequences of wrongdoing. Anything else?
And we lie because we think we HAVE to have whatever it is we want, or because we don’t think we can withstand the consequences of our wrongdoing, and because we think that lying is the only way to get what we want or don’t want.
It is also worth noting that lying seems to be a developmental stage through which we all must pass– the most chronic and seemingly pathological liars are children. They will lie when they don’t have to, or for the fun of it, or in order to get something they covet, or to cover their tracks. From this we can learn that there is something immature about the impulse to lie, and that there is something about honesty that is learned. Or, perhaps, earned.
Honesty in its original usage meant to speak honorably. The honorable person is one who readily accepts the consequences of his actions, whether they are desirable or problematic, he does not shirk the outcome.
Why this investigation of honor and honesty here? Because as service providers, we are all playing a confidence game- that is, we are gaining the confidence of potential clients in order to sell them our services. Our product is intangible- confidence and service. The same as the ‘con man’. We walk in a gray zone where the customer buys because he has placed his confidence in us. And of course what separates the professional service provider from the ‘con man’ is that he provides what he has promised for a fee disclosed at the beginning of the relationship.
This places some providers in a position to think that because they have gained the client’s confidence, they can sell them anything, or shoddy service. The lawyer who claims to have taken action on a cause when he hasn’t, the physician who prescribes a procedure that is not necessary, the financial adviser who churns the account, etc.
Most notable about issues with honesty in professional practice is that there is no surer way to terminate a career prematurely than by practicing in a less than honorable way.
In honorable practice, there is no trace left behind one’s actions, nothing that can be used against the provider after the fact. While those who commit wrongdoing have left at the scene a weapon that can and will be used against them when the time comes, and they will have to face, dishonorably, the consequences of their actions.