Honesty: The Only Policy

Part ten of an eleven-part series on “Habits of Highly Successful People”

Habit #9 – A Successful Person is Completely Honest

By Kevin Riggs

The one Commandment that’s universally broken is probably the Ninth Commandment. I would like to think that the older I get the less lying is a temptation. But whether it is a blatant lie or a white lie, dishonesty and deception are constant temptations.

The Commandments

Commandment Nine sounds negative, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Its implications, however, are positive. At the heart of this prohibition is an exhortation to look out for one another’s reputation. It is a reminder that I need to defend people’s character, believing the best about them.

Specifically, the Ninth Commandment has to do with the judicial system. If I am called to testify about someone, it would be wrong to “bear false witness,” To “bear false witness” means to slander or say things that are not fact, making empty accusations. The general application behind this Commandment is to be honest in all situations.

Ways People Lie

I have met a few people who make lying an art form. The thing about lying is that after a while you start to believe your own lie. Basically, I have observed two ways people lie.


Dishonesty means telling a blatant lie. Dishonesty is spreading, saying or doing something that is entirely false. When I take credit for something I did not do, that is dishonest. When I call in to work sick so I can go shopping or fishing, l am being dishonest. Dishonesty includes things like cheating on a test and intentionally spreading false information.


Deception is stretching the truth or telling facts in a misleading way or leaving out parts of a story in order to paint the picture I want to paint.  I believe that deception is more harmful than dishonesty. Deception is harder for the innocent to defend. As the old saying goes, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when at first we practice to deceive.”

Reasons People Lie

Both dishonesty and deception convey things not true. I don’t like to be lied to or lied about; yet I am tempted to do the same to others. Why I am tempted to lie?

To Cover My Tracks

I am tempted to lie to cover a mistake or to hide something I did wrong. In an effort not to get caught, it is tempting to make up stories, stretching the truth. It is when I don’t want people to find out what really happened that I think about covering my tracks.

To Shift the Blame

If taking responsibility for my actions will have negative effects, it is easier to blame it on someone else. “I was just following your orders.” “Isn’t that what you wanted me to do?” “It’s not my fault.” “The devil made me do it.” All are said in an attempt to shift the blame.

To Inflate My Status

I have to confess, I have lied (or at least stretched the truth) to make myself look better . . . especially at conventions and conferences when I am around my peers. Furthermore, it is tempting to spread gossip about someone else, thinking that by tearing others down I will be lifted up. People lie about how much money they make, what their real jobs are, successes they have had and how smart they are. Even pastors are tempted to be less than honest about church attendance in an effort to inflate status.

To Protect Myself or Others

This may be the biggest area in which people are tempted to lie. I do not like to be hurt and I do not like to hurt others. At times, I am tempted to stretch the truth to spare their feelings. Instead of lying, l need to learn to speak the truth in love, and tell the truth in a tactful way.

To Manipulate Others

I know there have been times when I have used guilt or shame to get others to do things I think they ought to do. Parents force children into certain activities, telling them how fun it will be, when in reality, they want their children to participate because it will make them look good as parents. If l am not careful, as a pastor, I can be tempted to manipulate parishioners in order to get my way.

God’s Attitude about Lying

Everyone hates lying, but people don’t always see the big deal in telling “harmless” lies. In reality, there are no harmless lies; at least God doesn’t think so. God takes a strong stand against lying, stronger than most other sins. What does God think of lying?

God Hates Lying

God doesn’t hate the liar, but He despises lying. The Bible says, “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,A false witness that spreadeth lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”  Of the seven things mentioned, four have to do with lying.

God Associates Lying with the Devil

Jesus said, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”  Satan is the lying king. When I lie, I ashowingmy sinfulness. When I lie, I am speaking the native language of Satan. I can’t think of anything worse than that!

God Views All Lies as a Lie to Him

As a child, when I lied to my parents, I was lying to God. When a husband lies to his wife, he is lying to God. When you lie to your boss, you are lying to God. When I lie to myself, I am lying to God. God takes lying seriously.

The Ninth Habit

The Ninth Commandment said, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Thus, the habit from this Commandment is as follows: A highly successful person is completely honest.If I want to be successful, I must be honest with my wife, my children, my church, my God and myself. I must recognize that honest is not the bestpolicy; it is the onlypolicy. A successful person can be counted on to be honest at all times, no matter the situation, no matter the consequences.

God considers a half-truth to be a whole lie. He considers a white lie to be a dark sin. The only solution to lying is repentance. Repentance means changing my mind and agreeing with God. That means I will treat lying as seriously as God treats lying.

The prophet Zechariah said, “These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbor….”  The Apostle Paul wrote, “Lie not to one another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds.” A highly successful person is completely honest in all things.

Article adapted from Contactmagazine, November 2002.