The following was inspired by a question I received within The Trust Workshop regarding dishonesty:
The question, paraphrased: “When someone is dishonest, how do I know their intention without them telling me? And if their intention doesn’t serve my needs, do I just the let it go even if I feel hurt that someone lied to me?”
My response:You would feel hurt because you have a need for honesty. Totally valid.
Personally, I have experienced when dishonesty is just a stimulus I notice, like when my 3-year-old lies about how many cookies he ate while I just watched him eat twice as many. Here, my need for contribution to his development outweighs my need for honesty.
There are times when dishonesty is something I actually appreciate, like when my wife told me she was full and that I should have the last bite of something delicious only to see her eat something later. Here, my need for love and empathy floods out the need for honesty.
And then there are times when dishonesty are like knives in my heart. We can think of these examples. Deceit, betrayal, infidelity etc.
But for me, honesty isn’t as simple as black or white, there or not there.
For me, the intention is important. We can’t know their intention without asking. And when we ask, we may not believe their answer if we think they have already demonstrated dishonesty. We can guess based on evidence though.
My rule of thumb is if someone is dishonest, I forgive them once and move on with little adaptation. If they are dishonest again, I forgive them again and adapt the trust I have for them, which changes the ways that I am willing to collaborate with them.
Some of my best friends have my full trust for planning a good party but not to watch my kids.
Also, if I determine with some certainty that someone’s intention was to cause harm, I don’t imagine very many situations where I would choose to engage with them. But this is at the heart of war, nonviolence, and world peace. How we care for humans behind the actions and learn to give empathy while also protecting ourselves is not easy, but worth the effort of learning.