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Is Honesty Outdated?

Is Honesty Outdated?

Hitoshi worked in the accounting office of an employment agency in Japan. While reviewing a financial account with his superior, Hitoshi was told that he was expected to make a falsified report. Hitoshi explained that his conscience would not let him do dishonest work. As a result, Hitoshi’s superior threatened to fire him, and he ultimately lost his job.

In the months that followed, Hitoshi became downhearted over his employment prospects. During one job interview, for instance, Hitoshi mentioned that he could not engage in dishonest work. The interviewer responded, “Your way of thinking is strange!” Hitoshi’s family and friends encouraged him to remain firm in his resolve to be honest, yet he began to have some doubts. For instance, he said, “I wondered if being honest about my faith was a good idea.”

Hitoshi’s experience is a disturbing reminder that not everyone prizes honesty. In fact, some may even view it as a liability, particularly in the business community. “I’m surrounded by people who are dishonest,” said a working woman in South Africa, “and sometimes the pressure to conform is very great.”

One form of dishonesty that is particularly widespread today is lying. Some years ago, a study by Robert S. Feldman, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, determined that 60 percent of adults lie at least once during a ten-minute conversation. “It was a very surprising result,” says Feldman. “We didn’t expect lying to be such a common part of daily life.” Is it not strange that most people abhor the idea of being lied to yet there are few practices more common than lying?

Why are lying, stealing, and other forms of dishonesty so common today? How does dishonesty affect society as a whole? And more important, how can we avoid getting caught up in these dishonest practices?