Honesty

Intellectual Dishonesty and Houseplants

Intellectual dishonesty takes many forms. One of the most common occurs when we look at the collection of arguments someone is making to support a claim, select the weakest among them, ignore the rest, and respond as though the weakest support is the only support.

Often, mockery follows. We heap scorn on the whole claim, emphasizing the absurdity of the one weak supporting idea.

I’m saying “we” here because it’s a common human failing. Some do it because the situation is emotionally charged and they haven’t learned to use analytical distance and other structured thinking skills.

That’s really not an excuse. That kind of interaction isn’t the way any lover of truth should behave. Upholding truth is more important than winning the fight.

An Emotionally Neutral (Hopefully) Example

Imagine someone gives a speech to a national audience promoting houseplants. The main idea of the speech is that every American should buy houseplants immediately. In support of his claim, the speaker uses the following arguments.

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From the Archives – Hey, I'm Just Being Honest!

We’ve all been there. Someone says something tactless, crass, slanderous—or all of the above, and the justification offered is, “Hey, I’m just being honest. Am I supposed to lie?!” No doubt, some of these “honest” folks are just posturing. But some seem to genuinely confuse the act of speaking one’s mind with the act of speaking honestly.

Yes, honesty, transparency and frankness are related. They share similarities—but so do cream of tartar, flour, and borax. Confusing similar things can have dramatic consequences.

Scripture helps us distinguish between frankness, openness, and honesty and, as a result, better distinguish right from wrong.

Speaking Your Mind

Depending on how we define it, frankness undoubtedly has its place. Miriam-Webster defines “frank” as:

marked by free, forthright, and sincere expression <a frank reply>

By this definition, frankness sounds pretty good. Who’s against forthright and sincere? But considering the matter biblically, it’s the “free” part that creates a problem. Scripture is clear that we should generally not view ourselves as “free” so say whatever we please.

I said, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence.” (ESV, Psalm 39:1)

A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. (Prov. 29:11)

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, (Matt. 12:36)

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Hey, I'm Just Being Honest!

We’ve all been there. Someone says something tactless, crass, slanderous—or all of the above, and the justification offered is, “Hey, I’m just being honest. Am I supposed to lie?!” No doubt, some of these “honest” folks are only posturing. But some seem to genuinely confuse the act of speaking one’s mind with the act of speaking honestly.

Yes, honesty, transparency and frankness are related. They share similarities—but so do cream of tartar, flour, and borax. Confusing similar things can have dramatic consequences.

Scripture helps us distinguish between frankness, openness, and honesty and, as a result, better distinguish right from wrong.

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Honoring Our Mistakes

I was 18, working on an Associates Degree in Electronics Engineering Technology at our local community college in Cicero, IL. Then—in the beginning of my second year of a two-year program—I sensed a clear call to ministry. What should I do? I knew: I completed my degree. Enrolling in the AAS program was not actually a mistake, but it was not where God was continuing to take me. Yet I had made a commitment and had seen too many examples of people who vacillated in one direction and then another. I did not want to be in that number. Besides, my family and friends already thought I had lost my mind when I told them I had become a born-again Christian and changed the way I lived. I did not want to give them more ammunition to bolster the idea that I had gone off the deep end.

There are occasions in life when we feel we have committed ourselves, but the original commitment was a mistake. If our commitment was to something overtly sinful, we know that God wants us to repent and abandon it. There are times when we must cut our losses. For example, investing good money after bad in an attempt to avoid loss can be a foolish action. I discourage “loss-avoidance” thinking; it is a natural but often foolish way to think.

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