The word dishonest has popped up at many different times in my life, but lately it seems to be in my world way too often. I thought I would explore the definition and how it has shown its ugly head throughout my 45 years on this earth.
1) not honest; disposed to lie, cheat, or steal; not worthy of trust or belief
2) proceeding from or exhibiting lack of honesty; fraudulent
Above you will see words in red. To me, these words ring true with the definition of dishonest.
Looking back on my life, I recall several instances that really stick out with the word dishonest.
Before I go into this, I will give you little background. I was raised by my paternal grandparents from the age of 3 months in Huntington, NY along with my older brother, Brian. Now there were times in our early childhood, where we didn’t live with our grandparents, and lived with other families for circumstances I do not recall. Brian, who is 4 years older than I am, may remember a lot more than I do, but I just have brief images in my head of different households and families.
My father, who I was told, ran off with my babysitter and started a new family would come in and out of the picture in the early years of my life. I recall a time when his “new” family including a wife and 3 kids, came to stay with us at my grandparent’s house on Long Island. I do not know the circumstances as to why they showed up or how long they stayed with us. Memories are weird like that.
He, my father, is my first example of someone being dishonest in my life. He would time and again say one thing and do something else. “I’m coming to visit you in 2 weeks” he would say. That day would come and he wouldn’t arrive or even call. I believe that my grandparents would try to cover for him, but this would happen over and over again. I believe that because of this, I developed the protective mechanism of assuming he wouldn’t arrive so I wouldn’t be so disappointed. That way, if he did happen to stay true to his word, I would be pleasantly surprised. Years later, looking back, I believe this is why I’m a bit more on the pessimistic side of the spectrum.
an inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities or to expect the worst possible outcome
The next story takes place when I was in elementary school. I am guessing that I was around the age of 8 or 9. It was winter and there was a lot of snow on the ground. A few of my friends and I were going to a friend’s house after school. The bus dropped us off close to her house and when we got there, the front door was locked. At this point in the day, I really had to go to the bathroom, it was cold outside and I just couldn’t hold it anymore. So, what did I do? I sat down in a snow drift and peed. To my friends, I probably looked as if I was just waiting for my friend to go around back to let us in the front door. When the front door finally swung open and I stood up, someone realized the yellow snow in my butt print and commented that I must have sat in dog pee. I hammed it up and agreed with her assessment. I was being “dishonest” and my friends didn’t seem to catch onto my lie.
I would like to share a little bit more of my background. My grandparents who raised me, in my mind, were two amazing people. I have no idea how they were able to provide me with the childhood that they did at their ages. They instilled in me things that have helped me become who I am today.
“Don’t rely on anyone else, do things yourself”
“Treat others how you want to be treated”
Fast forward to my professional life as a physical therapist. I have worked in the healthcare system for 20+ years and I have experienced dishonesty from many different sources. These have included co-workers, bosses, doctors, management, HR, patients, and their family members. Over the years, I have called out some of these people on their lies. Why? Because their actions negatively affected or had the potential to negatively affect a patient in some way. Healthcare should be “patients first”. The well-being of my patients was and continues to be very important to me.
Over the last few years, I have been inundated with verbal and written examples of dishonesty. Why is this? Why are people dishonest? Why does it seem so natural for some people to lie? Are they so good at telling themselves the story they want to hear, that the story becomes their reality?
Looking at the examples I used above, I have no idea why my father would lie to me over and over again. I haven’t spoken to him in over 30 years, so I haven’t ever asked him why. To be honest, if he was standing right in front of me, I don’t know that I would care to ask him anything.
My, “I must have sat in dog pee” incident probably came from a place of embarrassment. I didn’t want my friends to know that I peed my pants, so I lied. The interesting thing it that lie has stuck with me for years. Why is that? Is it because being honest was so ingrained in my being?
Why is it that people are dishonest? I found this article and found it very informative. Below in italics is an excerpt from the article.
Why People Lie
One of the biggest questions about lying surrounds motive. It’s a multifaceted topic, but researchers have broken down why people lie systematically. National Geographic compiled findings about why people lie and placed the reasons into four major categories.
- To Promote Yourself: Just fewer than half of lies (44%) provide the person who lies with some sort of advantage or benefit outside of protection. The person can benefit financially (16%), offer the person benefits outside of money (15%), help the person create a better self-image (8%), or allow the person to appear humorous by making others laugh (5%).
- To Protect Yourself: The other major reason people lie is for protection. Just more than one-third of all lies (36%) cover up some type of mistake or misdeed (22%), or they help avoid other people (14%).
- To Impact Others: A small minority of lies (11%) affect other people. Lies in this category help others (5%), hurt others (4%), or are made to be polite or uphold social roles (2%).
- Unclear: The smallest category of lies revolves around uncertainty (9%). Most are unclear to the person who lies (7%), and the rest are deemed pathological (2%). A study in Applied Cognitive Psychology found that consistent lying increases belief in a lied-about event and decreases belief in true events. Lying can distort people’s perception and confidence in what’s true.
Types of Lies
How are lies actually constructed? Here are some of the most popular types of lies.
- Bold: Bold lies, otherwise known as bold-faced or barefaced lies, are obvious to people who hear the lies. These types of lies are so egregious that they’re seen in children more often than adults.
- Deceptive: Deceptive lies are crafted carefully and skillfully, with the intent to mislead the person on the receiving end. These lies are often subtle and hard to detect.
- Denial: Denial involves refusing to acknowledge something that’s true.
- Error: Lies can happen by mistake. People may believe what they’re saying is true, even if that isn’t the case.
- Exaggeration: Exaggerations make the false assertion that something is greater or better. For instance, people may try to paint a more attractive picture of themselves by saying they’re more successful than they are. Another example is people over-promising something to make up for a mistake.
- Fabrication: Fabrications deliberately make up a story or something that’s not true. These types of lies tend to be overt and can be a mark of desperation.
- Minimization: Minimizations lessen the extent of something. Often, these types of lies involve rationalization and take place when people can’t completely deny the truth. Minimizations are the opposite of exaggerations.
- Omission: Lies of omission leave out part of the truth. For many people, omission is easier to engage in than other types of lies because omission is passive and doesn’t involve making up anything.
To me, the worst ones are deceptive or fabricated lies that negatively impact others. Sadly, this is the type of dishonesty I am surrounded by these days due to unfortunate circumstances.
Why can’t people just be good, kind, and honest human beings?
Is that too much to ask?