“The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” So said well-loved comedienne Lucille Ball in a humorous, though mixed, message about the benefits of honesty when it comes to our health and longevity.
But what if we understood that it was healthy for us to be honest? In an article in Insight in Psychology Today, Professor Anita Kelly discussed the results from her latest project called The Science of Honesty. What she discovered was that being truthful and sincere may in fact be a good prescription for our health, leading to better immunity and less depression.
This makes sense because when we are untruthful, we feel stressed and tense. It’s no wonder this leads to health challenges.
Each of us has had the experience – whether with a small “white” lie or a “real whopper” – of that queasiness in the pit of our stomach that arises when we are not honest with ourselves or with others, or both. We’ve also witnessed the pain we have caused when we finally tell someone what we “honestly think” (as we see it), or when they have discovered our lie.
What is it that rises up in us like red flags dancing in our head and stomach when we are less than honest? Jiminy Cricket told Pinocchio it was his “conscience” – a feeling or intuition that acts as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of our behavior. We often call it an “inner voice,” and it makes us uncomfortable when we disregard it.
All religious teachings tend to see conscience as a moral guide, but it is something deeper than that. I believe it points to the recognition of our true spiritual nature that is at the heart of our relationship with God. The Bible expresses it as “unity of Spirit.” Dishonesty with others or ourselves makes us feel separated from divine goodness and truth, giving us that uncomfortable feeling.
Because of our yearning for sincerity, we are shocked and disappointed when a public figure or celebrity is less than truthful. Yet, despite our demand for honesty from others, those engaged in this study reported that humanity finds it one of the most difficult qualities to practice. Dr. Robert Feldman of the University of Massachusetts found in a study of students that over 60% lied at least once within a ten-minute conversation.
The question is why? “It’s so easy to lie,” Feldman said. “We teach our children that honesty is the best policy, but we also tell them it’s polite to pretend they like a birthday gift they’ve been given. Kids get a very mixed message regarding the practical aspects of lying, and it has an impact on how they behave as adults.”
The study suggests that the heart of the matter lies in how we deal with our human relationships. Yet, throughout time, spiritual thinkers have taught that it really centres first around our connection with God as the very expression of Truth itself. When we deeply understand and acknowledge that we are all children of one divine Parent, we feel impelled to develop healthier, more honest human relationships – to be both truthful and compassionate.
Speaking about how to live one’s life in a way that brings wholeness and health, 19th century Christian healer, Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “A little more grace, a motive made pure, a few truths tenderly told, a heart softened, a character subdued, a life consecrated, would restore the right action of the mental mechanism, and make manifest the movement of body and soul in accord with God.”
Grace, right motives and tender truths: these qualities point us to a more spiritually based, consecrated life that produces health.
The fairy story of Pinocchio, who through tough lessons discovered the transforming nature of being truthful, teaches a valuable lesson. Recognizing and living our innate honesty takes practice for many of us who are used to compromised truth-telling, but it brings a healthier, happier life .