I was listening to the television the other night, trying to catch the news. (I know -that’s almost an oxymoron.) There was an expose on the local station concerning fraud in the auto repair business. A hidden camera filmed the people working at the station telling the customer that he needed a number of auto parts repaired or replaced. The previous check in by an independent mechanic showed the car to be in perfect working order. The car was brought back a week later by a different driver to the same station. He was again told that the parts supposedly replaced last time needed replacement. When confronted with the deception, the owner shrugged his shoulders and walked away.

Several things struck me about this story. I wondered how prevalent the deception was, for certainly all the honest mechanics were being labeled as cheats by implication. I asked myself, "How do these people sleep at night?" I also wondered at the apparent lack of enforcement weeding out deceptive business practices. There’s a lot of fear mongering by the media, and I suspect this has a lot to do with our perception that our fellow human beings are worse people than an objective assessment would document. Having said that, there have been a number of objective studies documenting a decline in the level of honesty of the people in our country. Whether it’s a percentage of people who would cheat on examinations, taxes, spouses, or their jobs, integrity seems to be on the decline. What is more disturbing to me is our society’s seeming indifference and acceptance of this change. Who can muster indignation at another dishonest public official or business leader? What is worse are those who claim to want to reform the system, then turn out to be the same as the people they replace.

In order for a society to function, there has to be a commonly held trust in the institutions and leaders of that society. This in turn can only come from a set of shared values and beliefs which are promulgated and sustained by the people who make up the society. Legislation and police are not sufficient to enforce strictures people have not internalized and accepted. If we do not teach our children the difference between right and wrong, if we look the other way while harm is being done to another, then we have little hope that things will improve. We desperately need leaders who will embody the values that we as society need for our survival. We cannot afford to throw up our hands, shrug our shoulders, and say " that’s just the way things are." I again remember that slogan from the sixties, "If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem." Any of you have any ideas here, feel free to chime in.

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16 Responses to Honesty

  1. Holy says:

    Oh my…the first to weigh in?OK, well so I have an opinion or two or five thousand on issues of societal morality and integrity.  I swing between both complacent acceptance…or should I say cynical and jaded resignation? – and lamplighter of the moral brigade….I so want to be the change but my big issues in life are trust and openness…so I have a hard time trusting that the auto mechanic isn\’t out to stiff me or in my current reality, the currency house or the mortgage broker or the realtor or the escrow company or the house insurance rep or the…blah blah blah…And ultimately, I\’m finding I have to change my paradigm and project a kind of Buddhist karmic like attracts like such that honest and humble intent brings about an honest transaction…But I dunno, at the end of the day…there will be those who live their lives in complete fear that they must rob Peter to pay Mary…..and those who will trust that a penny less earned or profited today will benefit the next guy…such as how I found myself in pondering why I didn\’t exchange a chunk of our Cdn wealth last week vs. today when the dollar was a cent lower….but at the end of the capital D day, what of it?  Who cares?  What goes around comes around, n\’est ce pas?I\’m just a slog like any other, just wanting to do my part in making the world a better place than how I came in….being the solution, not the problem.But you\’re absolutely right…we cannot enable the dsyfunction – we must do our part to pay the honesty forward.  I love when my kids find a $20 bill in the parking lot and immediately look to see who might have dropped it….that\’s what it\’s all about.PS – almost an oxymoron….pffffttt….:)  that\’s funny.  BWJ (be well, Jorge)….

  2. no esta disponible says:


  3. dawn says:

    hi Jorge,
    so true what you said. im glad you\’re feeling better now. i liked your piece on Father\’s said. well-said 🙂

  4. Cheryl says:

    Corruption, theft and disdhonesty is so prevelant in our society that we take it for granted now and only bat an eye if we are cheated.  On the news are are told only what they want us to know, the politicains are experts at lies and everyone knows it.  We can no longer tell the difference between a lie and a truth anymore and now reality starts to bend for most of us.  History repeats itself and we are slipping further and further into facism.  Our government is now obsolete and we see all kinds of Katrina\’s.  Not just the failure of FEMA but failure of the education system, the healthcare system, the health and human services system and the list goes on and on.  As far as personal dishonesty andtheft many people say why not.  It is only wrong if you get caught.  Knowing all of this I am very careful.  Luckily I live in a small town and work in a hugetown.  My town is less than 3,000 people and my city is 4.5 million.  I know my mechanic and have known him for 20 years.  I am careful

  5. K says:

    Well… I remember back in the day I took my car in to the mechanics to have one thing repaired and I left there so petrified of driving my car home because the mechanic told me my car was a \’bomb\’ waiting to explode.  I cried I was so afraid – I didn\’t know any better and took his word as golden.  When I called my then boyfriend (who was much more car savy than I) crying – told him what the mechanic told me – he was furious.  He went over there and yelled at him because none of the things he said about my car was true.  I took my car in to a reputable (and a member of Better Business Bureau) mechanic and he looked over my car and laughed – he told me there was nothing wrong with my car – no it wasn\’t a bomb waiting to explode – and made a few suggestions that I had him fix and replace.
    That whole experience taught me a lesson – shop around – get quotes and second/third opinions because you do meet supposedly \’good\’ mechanics who will take you to the cleaners, especially with unknowing women.  I learned a valuable lesson and to this day I follow that rule…. and also remember that there are good mechanics out there that are honest and trustworthy.
    Hope you are well and enjoying your summer!  Take care Jorge!

  6. LORI says:

    You know what I worry about more than this? What some cooks/chefs may do behind the scenes in a restaurant to food I may be eating. Yuck.

  7. Gayle says:

    You are most certainly on to something.  Integrity is a personal responsibility and people are very willing to shirk it, sometimes even encouraged to do so.  I remember a blog I wrote about filling out an online application for a job I was highly qualified to do.  Unfortunately, one of the experiences they asked for I did not have.  I was honest and excluded from the interview pool.  More than one person wanted to know why I told the truth.  "Why not just say what they want to hear?", was the standard response when I mentioned it.  No one tells the truth on those things; then you get the interview and they can see what you can do.
    So, it is standard operating procedure to lie or stretch the truth or whatever we want to call it these days.  It\’s the way it is.  What I wonder sometimes is whether there is a place for those who operate from a different set of rules.  What if you just can\’t play the game like that?  I guess you take a deep breathe and remember that trading your integrity for gold is never an even trade, no matter the bounty.  At least that\’s what my father and mother taught me.
    Be Well,

  8. Michelle says:

    I grew up learning that honesty and integrity was very important. I am glad I was brought up that way. My Father always said "You are only as good as your word." I do find that leaders, businesses, and many people just don\’t think on those terms. 
    Armando and I recently realized that several McDonald\’s stores, and even some Burger King stores charge 1% more sales tax than they are supposed to and we spoke to the person charging it, who had no idea why. It\’s frustrating when businesses break standard rules and you compound that 1% interest and that company is making a lot of money off of people. Not every McDonald\’s and Burger King has done it, but several have. It\’s corrupt. 
    Thanks for a good topic. I hope you have a good week ahead!

  9. Michelle says:

    P.S. I said 1% interest, I meant 1% sales tax. Sorry.

  10. Unknown says:

    Hi Jorge,
    Thanks for the wonderful post on the decline of honesty and integrity in our society.  Your point about needing leaders who believe in and support these values is necessary for restoring them.  It’s easy to see why ordinary citizens give up when faced with national leaders who have replaced the public interest with self-interest, and have no qualms about lying and withholding information.  Likewise, it’s easy for the lower-level employees in corporate America to engage in unethical practices when their leaders at the top do the same and/or simply don’t care about treating their customers fairly.
    I liked your quote from the 1960s because my parents actually believed it might be possible to change things for the better.  I recently heard an educational leader say the college students of today are more conservative than their parents.  I know some of my friends in the college of business fit this description.  My quote for these current college students is “Since we can’t change anything, our best chance for success is supporting the status quo.”  Or, to put it more bluntly, our best chance for success is to suck up to the current leaders!
    It is also generally agreed that the level of civility in society is declining, more people are rude, arrogant, and find it easy to hate others who are different.  As for me, I think we all have to work harder to prevent these people from winning.  Hope you have a great week.  Take care.  Danele

  11. Stephen Craig says:

    Jorge,  Fortunatly I have always had a mechanic that was a friend or friend of a friend.  In all things where trust is involved I tend to stay within my network where one\’s honor is valued.  The corrupt and those who take advantage of others are no better than a common thief.  I am thankful that they are not a part of my life.  On a lighter note, I hope summer finds you well and in good spirits.
    As ever be well,
    Stephen Craig Rowe

  12. Betty says:

    Hi Jorge,
    Thought-provoking, that is what you are!  Honesty in our world and time is in short supply among corporations, government, religion and on a individual level.  What does an honest person do about it?  I can only answer for this honest person.  I must answer to me.  I will be rigorously honest even about dishonesty.  When acquaintances and sometimes even friends suggest something that is dishonest, I simply say, "I won\’t do that it isn\’t honest."  Twice in the past year people I respected suggested ways to be dishonest.  One friend of Dean\’s suggested that because the furnace in my recently purchased home was old and I have a homeowners warranty, I should make sure the furnace "goes out" before the warranty was up.  I said, "I won\’t do that, it isn\’t honest."  He looked at me like I was a loon.  I woman I know well suggested I be ambiguous when filling out a form because it would profit me.  I  said, "I won\’t do that it isn\’t honest."  She hasn\’t suggested anything dishonest to me since.
    I think that when we remain silent we condone.  Some folks do dishonest things because they actually believe it is okay because everyone else does it. 
    By the way, I have a two great mechanics; one in Montana and one in Salt Lake City and I\’ve known both for almost twenty years.

  13. Nicole says:

    hi there,
    I didn\’t see a general purpose guest book on your site, but I wanted to take the time to stop by and thank you for all of your sincere and thoughtful comments you leave me on my blog.  I always appreciate them. 
    take care,

  14. Theresa says:

    Women are always the victims of this type of deception more times than not.  We know there are businesses out there operating like this so it is our responsibility to educate ourselves.  It is always a good idea for women to take along a male friend when dealing with places of business like this.  This is sad but it is the only way to make sure we won\’t fall victim to this type of deception. 
    Good entry!

  15. Marge says:

    Wow…this is a substantial matter to consider, Jorge…
    Where does one begin?
    Seems to me that veracity, integrity, and honesty have been lacking for a long time, but it\’s taken until now for us to realize how badly we need those values today. Our society is crumbling, as are those of our neighbors around the world to a greater or lesser degree, and it\’s obvious as the machines of corruption, exploitation, avarice and insensitivity roll over us all that something must be done. The question becomes: what?
    I propose a thing with which I suspect most will disagree (vigorously, no doubt)…
    We have, by inactivity, ignorence, or well-meaning, allowed the problem you described to prevail. The auto mechanic scenario could be a metaphor for so many situations facing us. I propose that we must, simply put, face the consequences.
    Although I\’m a struggling optimist at heart, I suspect that most situations such as the one you called to our attention will have to play out to the discomfort of us all. We must deal with inconvenience, unfairness, inconsideration, deprivation, and all the other nasty little things we emerged from secondary education ill-equipped to handle because either we didn\’t pay attention or the information wasn\’t given to us.
    Ever since I awoke from my convenience-induced dream-state, it\’s dawned on me that Americans aren\’t stupid. Far from it. One way or another, I believe we are a lazy people, capable of extraordinary things, but must be shaken out of our complacency by a major disruption in our lives before we\’ll do what needs to be done. We\’re seeing the evidence of that disruption all around us now.
    What\’s to be done?
    Hopefully we\’ll come up with some really good ideas soon–hopefully before we find ourselves being marched into boxcars and fates too terrible to contemplate.
    History, as we all know, has a tendency to repeat itself.
    Thank you for a chance to offer some thoughts, Jorge.

  16. W. Mitchell says:

    Hmmm.. Seems we have a space friend or two in common.  I am struck by the "Legislation and police are not sufficient to enforce strictures people have not internalized and accepted."  Very astute observation.  I would add that legislation in this "greatest free nation in the world" has had a detrimental effect to the honesty of said nation.  From my perspective, when we base legislation on a constitution, or bill of rights might be more accurate, that entails every person to a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness then pass legislation that limits and prohibits said liberty and pursuit, we have a legislative situation that is incongruent.  That essentially distorts the intent of what it was based on in the first place.   How do you teach your children to be honest, forthright and generous under a legislation that threatens that way of life?
    Anyways, congrats on your Space of The Week and excellent observation.

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