John Adams wrote ‘’Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” But what constitutes a moral people? Can we have a moral people without religion or spirituality? Can you be a moral person and not believe in God? Is an individual’s morality based on those around them? Is morality relative? Is our morality graded on a curve? I think not to all of the previous questions. If I get a C in a math class and the rest of the class gets a D, that does not make me a math genius because I had the highest score. The metric is all wrong. I would need to be compared against a metric of correct math principles. Just as Morality must be compared against a metric of true moral principles. Only one source possesses a perfect knowledge of moral principles, our creator, our heavenly father, our God. And through religion we should learn and practice those correct principles of morality.
Morality must be based on perfect natural God-given laws. With that foundation we must be a covenant making people and most importantly we must honor our covenants. We make covenants of all kinds throughout our lives. We make covenants with our creator at baptism, we make marriage covenants with our spouse, we make covenants with our employer, we make covenants with our community to abide by its laws and regulations. So the measure of our morality is in large part a measure of our honesty.
Degrees of Honesty
A person’s level of honesty may be measured in multiple degrees.
Open – where we are completely open about our strengths and weaknesses. This is usually manifested in good marriages and with best friends where there is a high level of trust between the individuals.
Spin – where we emphasize our strengths and de-emphasize our weaknesses to present the facts in their best light. A good example is on our employment resumes. We may emphasize our acquired college degree and our organization affiliations, but somehow we don’t mention the police raid at the frat house or the classes we had to retake.
Embellish – where we fabricate facts typically for self-aggrandizement. Some people find it necessary to say things that are not true to make themselves look better among their associates. Some may even say “What’s the harm, nobody got hurt”. Some people may imply relationships with important people or inaccurately reference financial transactions to improve the perception others have of them.
Steal – where we lie to others with the intent to take something from them by whatever means possible. For example, some businessmen feel it necessary and even justified to lie about a product that they are selling – it’s just business, buyer beware, right?
A person can be considered completely honest by being open or spinning the presentation, but they step into dark territory when they start altering the facts for whatever reason.
In some situations it is completely valid to withhold information, although the following examples do not justify retaining information to deceive others.
Personal Sensitivity – to preserve the feelings of another individual. The proverbial “Does this dress make my butt look big?” should probably not be answered with “Of course not, it’s your butt that makes your butt look big”. At times it is better to kindly soft-peddle your comments rather than brutally express your true thoughts.
Sacred Nature – some information may be of a sacred or spiritual nature and should not be shared unless you are inspired to do so under the right circumstances. The bible tells us to “not cast our pearls before swine”.
Information Abuse – some people may take shared information and use it against you or to manipulate the situation. You are not obligated to provide all information with people you do not trust.
Lack of Appreciation – Others may not have a full appreciation of your personal experiences. Wealth acquisition is a common area where employees or distant family members may feel that you should be more generous with your finances. They typically think that you were just lucky or they don’t understand the challenges, sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears you’ve endured.
Information non-disclosure is never justifiable to embellish or steal.
We have opportunities to exercise our honesty and our morality in all aspects of our daily lives. As we examine our personal practices we should be especially careful that we are accurate with the facts and that we don’t drift into gray areas of mis-information or little white lies. We need to return to the time when a man’s word was his bond and he did what he said he was going to do.
Many feel that the problem in government is the politicians. The real root of the problem is those that put the politicians in power. Virtuous leaders will only be elected by a virtuous and morally stable people.
If major positive change is going to happen, the people must undergo an enlightenment to become a moral people. A moral people that can answer in the affirmative, Yes, I’ve been honest in all my dealings.