When Is Honesty Not The Best Policy?


“The Indian epic Mahabharata, teaches us that there is more to life than meets the eye. Yes, rules were broken in the Mahabharata war. An elephant, not a man, called Ashwatthama was killed. But why should we uphold rules when they prop up a society where actions are based on power not love, where the motivation is anger not affection?” concludes Devdutt Patnaik on the famous story of the killing of Dronacharya.

And another writer that I have great respect for Gurcharan Das,  in his wonderful book The Difficulty Of Being Good addresses exactly the issues that Shackman has raised. And I agree with the reviewer when he concludes “I loved The Difficulty of being Good, but I will not recommend it to everyone. You should only buy this book, if you like the Mahabharata, and are also interested in questions of morality, and sometimes ponder about the questions of right and wrong. Without such interest, I think you will find the book difficult to read and not interesting at all.”

Another book that I am currently plodding through is more relevant to our present day conditions and environment. “The Truth About Trust; How It Determines Success In Life, Love, Learning and More”, by David DeSteno which I was persuaded to buy when I read this review in the HBR.

No, after all that information overload, I have not become an expert on the topic of honesty, truth and trust. If anything I have become more secure in my own answer to the question originally raised by Shackman – Honesty is not the best policy when the action taken can cause physical or mental harm to one’s self or others.


This topic was suggested by Shackman for the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where currently nine of us write on the same topic every Friday. I hope that you enjoyed my contribution to that effort.  The seven other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order,  AshokgaelikaaLin, Maxi, Padmum, Pravin,  Shackman and The Old Fossil. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, or not at all this week, do give some allowance for that too!

16 thoughts on “When Is Honesty Not The Best Policy?”

  1. Hi ramana,
    First of all I would like to thank you because of the reason you wrote such an good article. I agree with you that sometimes honesty is not best policy. thanks for such an well explanation with example.
    ~Tejas gavhane

  2. We Will have to agree to disagree on this one, Rummy. I don’t believe my truth told in a tactful way will do damage of any kind to anyone.

    I have a reputation as one who doesn’t lie, people trust me. If the situation is sensitive, I am careful with my words.
    blessings ~ maxi
    Maxi recently posted..When Is Honesty Not The Best Policy

  3. Ideally I would always be honest, but there are many situations where honesty wouldn’t go down well and a few strategic lies and half-truths are unfortunately the wiser option. For example, when talking to your boss, talking to someone unsympathetic to your personal views or lifestyle, talking to some official who’s trying to disqualify you from something, or being asked about someone’s appearance or clothes. Sometimes honesty will just get you into a whole heap of trouble.
    nick recently posted..Refugee hell

  4. I think honesty can hurt A LOT if not thought through. For example: those idiots trying to come clean with their spouses and confessing to affairs. What on earth is their motivation apart from complete selfishness in demanding forgiveness? Why destroy the memories of another person? Why don’t they just make up for those indiscretions and dishonesty by being extra loving? And not doing it again?
    wisewebwoman recently posted..Crystal Moments

  5. I yell a lot about things in my own home, no one hears how I’m going to play out anything vaguely representing honesty or truth…

    I rant and rave at the “person/object” and I go around in circles on how I should approach xyz!

    Most times, I never face up to it all – it smolders basically here! Until another situation arises…

    In my life it is often easier to evade the truth, usually fairly minor things and often to do with my personal finances 🙂

  6. You might also like a small little book called “Lying” by Sam Harris. I agree with the book although I also agree with your conclusion. Unfortunately, we find reasons not to be truthful when it seems the easy way out.
    Mother recently posted..Women Paying it Forward

  7. Hi Rummy,

    The eternal question…and my answer is: in due time.
    There’s a time to be honest and a time to be dishonest. What we have been seeing lately is more dishonesty than honest; hence the chaos we are living in. A good dosage of each is healthy. Does honesty sometimes produce wars and destruction? Yes, but only because it’s necessary – if not necessary, they don’t occur.

    Max Coutinho recently posted..Note: The Shadows Uphold National Security

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