I like to live by some principles. Not because I think that morals and values make me a better than someone else. Not because I think they will get me to Heaven. I think that certain principles and values allow me to see the world outside of my two eyes. They allow me to be better equipped to love those around me rather than get stuck in my own selfish desires.
One such principle is the belief that honesty is the best policy. It's a common saying, but how many of us really live by it. I think that it is important to be honest whenever possible because dishonesty promotes confusion, a lack of trust, and can really create barriers in interpersonal dynamics. So then, the way I see it, striving to be honest should likely have a contrary effect. It should foster mutual understanding, build trust between people, and provide a way for us to connect with each other. When we are dishonest and people take us at our word, then the seed of unnecessary bewilderment is planted. Why would you say something to someone that you do not deeply feel is true within you?
Sure, we cannot be expected to always speak with complete certainty about all issues, however it is in those such instances where honesty is so vital. To be transparent with those around us and to recognize that we do not know everything will give others a chance their own minds. If, instead, we try so desperately to convince someone that our way is right and there's is wrong and resort to dishonest wording or phrases, our validity in any argument is immediately challenged.
Likewise, when we are dishonest with those around us we set up a trust imbalance. How do we expect someone to trust us if we have been proven time and again that our words cannot be trusted? A lack of trust can lead to further, more complicated issues. If I don't trust you to hold onto my wallet for a couple minutes while I go to refill my drink, how will I ever trust you to watch after my children.
Similarly, honesty can create bridges between people. When we can be honest about the way we feel and about our experiences while simultaneously being open to critique of our perspectives we find new ways to connect with each other. In the long run, stating something dishonest for personal gain does not help either party. The dishonest person will have to come back to what (s)he said and defend it. The person on the receiving may have an inkling to believe the dishonest person may adjust certain aspects of his/her life. Then, when the dishonest person is found out, his/her credibility is tarnished. How can I trust anything you say if you lied about liking my shirt? Was anything you said truthful?
Another thing that I try to live by is that to an extent I in fact am my brother's keeper. What do I mean by that? I mean that we are all responsible for each other. Sure, we can't change the way that someone else thinks or take full responsibilities for others' actions, but if we think that we are islands floating in a sea of our own decisions, then we are sorely mistaken. The decisions that we make impact others and it is often our duty to collaborate with others to help them in their troubles. To think otherwise would be to say that anything one person does is not my responsibility. So, if someone tells me that (s)he is seriously considering hurting someone else and I choose to ignore the fact that I heard that, then I am doing a disservice to someone who may be in danger. I am being unethical toward the person whose life may be in danger.
To be certain, as I mentioned, we cannot take full responsibility of others' actions. We can change no one but ourselves. We control no one but ourselves and we put ourselves in a difficult position when we try to control the way that others act, think, look, etc. So, we have a responsibility to others (and they do toward us), and while we should not take that responsibility lightly, we also must respect others' freedom to make their own decisions (self-determination).