“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

—Thomas Jefferson

 

Friend 1: “Hey, it’s me.”

Friend 2: “I know it’s you. The question is, where are you? You were supposed to be here twenty minutes ago.”

Friend 1: “Oh, don’t start.” Friend 2: “What do you mean, don’t start? You’re always late!”

Friend 1: “You know that’s not true; I’m not always late.”

Friend 2: “Ok, forgive me for lying. You’re right; you’re never late. You’re just never on time.”

Friend 1: “I can’t believe you would say that about me. You know what? Just forget it.”

Friend 2: “You know what? You’re right. After all, you and the truth have never had much of an acquaintance. So, just tell me, are you on your way?”

Friend 1: “What do you mean, am I on my way? Of course, I’m on my way. As a matter of fact, I left home at least twenty minutes ago.”

Friend 2: “Twenty minutes ago. As in two zero: twenty?”

Friend 1: “Yes, I’m fully aware that it’s only a five minute drive. Yes, yes, I know what time it is. But it’s not my fault that traffic is backed up for miles and miles. There must be a terrible accident somewhere up ahead. Can’t you hear the sirens? Seriously, though, I left home in plenty of time to get to your place. Now, I’m just sitting in this parking lot of a highway.”

Friend 2: “Exactly what is that noise?”

Friend 1: “What noise? I don’t hear anything.”

Friend 2: “I’m talking about the noise that sounds like the tea kettle I gave you for Christmas.”

Friend 1: “Oh, no, no, no, umm, that’s not my tea kettle you’re hearing. Oh, wait a minute, that must be the fire truck that just whizzed by me on the way to the accident I told you about.”

Friend 2: “I guess that barking in the background is the dog chasing the fire truck, right?”

Bambi: “Arf, arf.”

Friend 1: “Barking? What barking in the background? How could you hear barking in the background?”

Friend 2: “Gosh, must be my lying ears playing tricks on me again.”

Bambi: “Arf, arf.”

Friend 1: “Well, I don’t care what you say; that is not Bambi barking at the UPS man. You know you’ve been having that little hearing problem lately.”

Bambi: “Arf, arf.”

Friend 2: “I hear barking.”

Friend 1: “Barking, for heaven’s sake, stop with the barking! I told you I left home at least ten minutes ago. Now, can you please let me get off this phone? There’s a cop behind me, and I don’t want to get a ticket for talking on the phone and driving. Bye, bye. I’ve gotta go. I’m trying to merge, and you’re gonna get me killed with all this talking.”

 

 “Whew, darn, that fool can talk! Bambi, you’ve just got to shut up when I’m on the phone, and for heaven’s sake please leave that poor UPS man alone. Now, where is my wallet? Where in God’s name did I put those blasted keys? Phew. Never thought I’d get out of that damn house. . . . Oh no, no, no. Please start, please, please, please start. Don’t do this to me now. Not now, not today! Damn it. Now, how am I ever going to convince her that I left home on time? You know, I just have to change my ways and stop with this awful lying. It’s bound to catch up with me one of these days.”

 

Friend 1: “Hey Girl, it’s me again. Do you think you could pick me up instead? Yeah, I know. It’s a long story, but I’ll fill you in when you get here. I have to tell you though, the tow truck guy who just picked me up on the side of the highway when my car overheated from sitting in that bad traffic jam—God, was he cute . . .!”

Bambi: “Arf, arf.”

 

Ladies and gentlemen, friends and kinfolk, please raise your hand if you’ve ever found yourself in a situation similar to the scenario you just read. Okay, for those of us who are scrunching up our brows, shaking our heads vigorously from side to side in denial, and mumbling, “Never, ever, ever,” please take note that I did not say identical; I simply said similar. Now, take a look at your sides. Hands still down? You mean you have never, ever told a little itty-bitty, teensy-weensy white lie? Never, ever? Really? Now what on earth is that awful smell? Kinda like something burning . . . Liar, liar, pants on fire.

For those of us who smiled guiltily and nodded as we remembered finding ourselves in a similar situation, or two, perhaps we can simply pray for our fellow goody-two-shoes friends and kin folks, and just think about what we can do to make a change in ourselves. Since, you know, that’s really where it starts.

 

 

To grow is to change. But not all change is good. We all know that change is not always desired or welcome. We can also all acknowledge that change for the sake of change, or because someone forces us to change, is a waste of energy and generally, an exercise in futility. For change to be good, it needs to be proactive, conscious, personally desired and directed. Many times, maintaining the status quo is much preferred. Why bother when things seem to be going along just fine or, at the very least, are tolerable? Why rock the boat? Why muddy the water?

Well, take a moment to consider this. Just what do you want from this life? Just how much do you think you deserve? If your answers to those two questions are “nothing” and “nothing,” then perhaps you should stop reading right now and pass this book along to the person whose answers are “everything” and “everything.” Whoa! Did you actually pause and consider the questions I asked above or did you just plow right past them? Did you stop and take a minute to consider what it is you want from this life like I asked you to do? Honestly now. You see, this is a book about consciously and actively becoming aware of our actions and then possibly changing ourselves and our actions in a manner that will guarantee us a fulfilled, productive, and abundant life. It is about using the simplest of methods to create a life full of deliberate choices rather than choices made without consciousness or made inadvertently. The book is about being fully awake when we think, speak, and act. It is a book about developing our awareness of the things we say and do without thought. The book is about awareness of the behaviors and the attitudes that have become habitual from constant use, but which lack consciousness. It is a book that will help us to look at ourselves without judgment, but look nonetheless. It is about personal honesty and awareness.

Why awareness? Well, without awareness, knowledge is unfocused. Without awareness, knowledge is undirected. Having awareness without knowledge is like owning a car without knowing how to drive it or even what purpose the car serves. In this case, the car is a beautiful but useless luxury. The same holds true with the lessons in this book. Knowledge without awareness is useless. Our job then is to first create an awareness of the various and plentiful ways in which we practice personal dishonesty, generally with complete lack of consciousness or guile. Next, we provide knowledge concerning the ways in which we can begin to rethink our patterns with an aim to creating a change. This book is about practicing “right thinking.”

Now, how does the very simple, even playful title of this book help us to practice right thinking? What does right thinking mean, exactly? Well, it means exactly what it says. We, at least many of us, consider heaven our ultimate reward for good behavior while we are here on earth. It really matters not whether we are considering heaven in a literal or figurative manner. The fact is that like Xerox, the word heaven has come to mean the same thing for most people who invoke it. That is, heaven is the just reward reserved for honest people!

So, if I say we can’t get to heaven wearing tight shoes, I am suggesting there is something morally wrong with consciously and deliberately wearing shoes that are too small for your feet. Yes, I am stating unequivocally that the act of wearing tight shoes is not only physically damaging, but that wearing tight shoes damages your very soul! That’s right. The same holds true for a lot of other things that we do, both with and without conscious thought.

For example, we lie about our jobs and then we lie, steal, and cheat at our jobs. We lie to our parents, our spouses, and our children, and then we lie to our neighbors about our parents, spouses, and children. We lie about love, and then we lie to our loved ones. We lie about sex, whether we’re having it or not, and then we lie about how good we are at it. We lie about our low weight and our great health. Then we cheat when we eat; we cheat when we workout; and we lie about what size we wear. On and on we go, day in and day out.

Lying, cheating, even stealing have become universal pastimes. We seem to be doing it so much that we are even able to convince ourselves with our own lies. However, as we are all painfully aware, telling a little lie is like being a little bit pregnant; sooner or later, it leads to bigger things.

Here is a small question to ponder: To whom are we really lying? If we are all lying, and we suspect that everyone else is, who are we trying to fool but ourselves? Here is a bigger question: What is this really doing to us? Have we become a people who are unable to even trust ourselves? If the answer to this question is yes, how do we begin to rebuild this trust? The answer lies with the difficult but necessary charge of taking the time to know and love ourselves.

 

 

I assure you that, as difficult a task as knowing and loving ourselves may seem, it is indeed doable, one day at a time. As you begin to contemplate the process of loving yourself, you will find out that a vital part of this process is developing personal honesty. There is an old song, To Know You Is to Love You, and I say, how can we or anyone else know us if we are constantly lying to ourselves and others about who we are? Further, how can you love someone whom you don’t know? Honestly, you can’t. You can, however, begin the process of knowing yourself by looking inside and allowing yourself to see the true you. This can be the first step in the process of developing a sense of personal honesty.

 

 

According to one of, if not the most quoted books of our time, Jesus, one of the great spiritual teachers, taught in John 8:32 that, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Also, according to another greatly quoted book, Webster’s Dictionary, truth and honesty are synonyms. Webster’s Dictionary expands its definition of the word honesty by noting that it implies a refusal to lie, steal, or deceive in any way. Honesty also includes behavior that is conducted without cheating, is genuine, real, reputable, respectable, good, worthy, creditable, praiseworthy, and marked with integrity.

All of these attributes are promoted in the teachings of religions and spirituality, and it is without question that there is immeasurable value to each and every one of them. But, with all the stumbling blocks that seem poised at the ready to derail us on our quest for right living, how do we ever attain what sometimes seem like insurmountable heights of goodness? Does any of this goodness really matter, or are we just wasting time pondering another imponderable like “Where did I come from?” or “Where am I going?” and “If I did decide to take this trip, do I even know how to get started?” Perhaps, one key to getting started on this journey is to first become acquainted with yourself in a very honest way. But you know it isn’t all that easy.

 

 

Questions of personal honesty can be harsh medicine to swallow, so I have chosen to use just a tad of humor as the spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down and, hopefully, in a most delightful way. Let us begin by returning for a moment to that often (mis)quoted book, the King James Bible, and start with the Commandments of Jesus to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Honestly now, how easy is it going to be for us to love our neighbors if we don’t even love ourselves? We must acknowledge that it may be rather difficult to ask us to love the next door neighbor who keeps stealing our Sunday paper and letting their “Little Pookie” take a dump on our front lawn right by the mailbox. This is the same neighbor who is forever leaving his or her trash can directly behind our car so that we can back out over it at least once a week. Yet we’re supposed to love them? If that is not hard enough, can we really be expected to love the neighbor who lives in another town, another state, another continent? You see, we have to come to terms with the idea that the word, neighbor, actually means every other being on this our home planet, and not just those pesky folks who were mean enough to take up residence at the address right next to us.

I recognize that, with this definition of the word neighbor in mind, Jesus might have been pushing his luck with the whole love thy neighbor as thyself bit, but, I believe there is hope. I do believe that there is a way to start the process, and it lies with each of us. As a matter of fact, I am going to go out on a limb and state emphatically that loving ourselves—warts, double chin, bald spot and all—is something that we can consciously, actively work on, and is a goal that we can actually achieve. So let’s begin with the process of loving ourselves by engaging in a little bit of personal honesty. But, let’s make it fun! Let’s start by looking inward and then around the corner! Let’s start by looking at the little things we do that keep us mired in what you will soon come to know as the ten “Thou Shalt Nots” and “The Seven Deadlies,” any one of which, if ignored or violated, seems guaranteed to keep us out of heaven, and slipping and sliding headfirst into hell, now or in the hereafter.