Text and Photo by Henrylito D. Tacio
“True honesty is hard. Throughout my career, I’ve faced moments where I’ve needed to take an honest look at myself and face some very uncomfortable realities.” – Les Brown
A teenager knocked on the door of a lady’s house and asked if she would like to buy some of the strawberries he had just picked. “Yes,” she replied, “and I’ll take your pail in the kitchen and weigh about one kilogram.”
The boy stood outside and played with the dog. “Why don’t you come in and see that I weigh your strawberries right?” the lady asked. “How do you know that I won’t cheat you?”
“I am not worried,” the teenager replied, “for you would get the worst of it.”
“What do you mean by that?” the lady inquired.
“Why, ma’am,” the teenager said. “I would only lose some strawberries; but you would make yourself a thief.”
In Blithe Spirit, Noel Coward wrote: “It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.”
“Be honest. Even if others are not, even if others will not, even if others cannot.” That seems to be the credo of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals.
There are several ways of defining honesty. The dictionary itself has several meanings for the word: refraining from lying, cheating, or stealing; being truthful, trustworthy, or upright; showing fairness and sincerity, or free from deceit. If you describe someone having an honest living, it means that he gained or earned by fair methods his income, not by cheating, lying, or stealing.
Is honesty among Filipinos already a dying virtue these days? If you answer affirmatively, I beg to disagree. Remember that airport employee who was commended for returning a lost shoulder bag containing cash and valuables left behind in a baggage conveyor at the arrival area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport?
In Taguig City, the mayor extolled two city hall employees for turning over the P40,000 cash that a businessman accidentally dropped. In Manila, a 41-year-old city hall timekeeper suffering from polio returned P60,000 worth of cash and checks, and vital documents to a company messenger.
In San Pablo City, driver-owner Faustino Cardoza earned praises from people for returning the P10-million cash left in his van by a German national. In Zamboanga City, a policeman got a one-rank promotion after he found and returned a bag containing almost half a million pesos to a retired Philippine Army soldier at the airport.
Even in other parts of the world, some Filipinos still have the decency of being honest. If you can recall, the Senate honored cab driver Nestor Sulpico for exemplifying honesty and uplifting the image of Filipinos abroad by returning US$70,000 worth of jewelry to its owner after it was left in his cab in New York City.
In the book of wisdom, according to American president Thomas Jefferson, “honesty is the first chapter.” But being honest is not just returning money and lost valuables. It’s more than that. It also means not cheating.
Dr. Madison Sarratt taught mathematics at Vanderbilt University for many years. Before giving a test, he would admonish his class something like this: ‘Today, I am giving two examinations – one in trigonometry and the other in honesty. I hope you will pass them both. If you must fail, fail trigonometry. There are many people in the world who can’t pass trigonometry, but there is no one who can’t pass the examination of honesty.”
Honesty also means telling the truth and nothing but the truth. And that person who tells the truth is ready to face whatever consequences. “To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause,” so goes a line of a popular song.
Or as Louisa May Alcott puts it: “Let my name stand among those who are willing to bear ridicule and reproach for the truth’s sake, and so earn some right to rejoice when the victory is won.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Pearl S. Buck urges, “The truth is always exciting. Speak it, then. Life is dull without it.”
But more often than not, people would listen more to fiction than the truth. A famous clergyman was preaching one Sunday and noticed that many of his audience were drowsing. Suddenly, he paused and then, in a very loud voice, related an incident that had no connection whatsoever with his sermon.
The incident went like this: “I was once riding a small village and came to the house of a farmer. I stopped for a bit when I saw something more strange than I had ever seen in my life. There was a sow with a litter of ten little pigs. The sow and the piglets had a long-curved horn growing out their forehead between their ears.”
At this point, the clergyman stopped and ran his eyes over the congregation. Everybody was wide awake. So, he remarked, “How strange it all is! Few minutes ago, when I was telling you the truth from the Bible, you all went to sleep. But now when you have heard a whooping lie, you are all wide awake!”
Now, going back to honesty.
“Honesty is of God and dishonesty of the devil,” said Joseph B. Wirthlin, “the devil was a liar from the beginning.”
And here’s what John Lennon remarked, “Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it’ll always get you the right ones.”