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The importance of honesty

There have been times when we have paid a shopkeeper extra amount by oversight while shopping but the shopkeeper returns that extra amount. We have also read in newspapers about incidents where someone forgot their bag of jewellery/cash in an auto/cab and the driver returned the bag to its rightful owner. These are acts of honesty.

Honesty is a value in life. Honesty is not simply telling truth. Honesty includes integrity, truthfulness and straightforwardness of conduct. King Harishchandra of Hindu mythology is the greatest example for honesty. He never uttered a lie even when he lost everything in life. We have such people living amongst us even today.

Honest people have strength of character. They do great service to the system they live in. They have peace of mind and become trustworthy in the society. Honesty becomes a big contributor to their success and wellness of society. If someone is dishonest and tells a lie to overcome a small inconvenience, one starts telling more lies to cover it up. For such a person, lying becomes a habit. In the process, one not only cheats others but ultimately cheats oneself. A liar would also suffer a sense of guilt, shame and reaches a stage where one cannot work for one’s own good. Such a person fails in life.

Imagine a student getting low marks in an exam. Low marks does not mean someone is incompetent or useless. To cover up the situation, if the student starts telling lies, he/she can never come out of it. On the other hand, with honest efforts he/she can succeed. After all, success is not just marks – being honest is more successful.

Honesty should a be a way of life and not what one does for the sake of others. One should be honest because one believes in being so. Honest people are those who speak what they believe in even if it is against the opinion of majority. They are never afraid of telling the truth and are thick-skinned to undeserved criticism.

Here is a story which illustrates the need for being honest.

Once upon a time, in a small village lived Sharada, a young girl, with her parents. Her father worked as a helper in a farm, owned by a rich, dishonest and cunning Landlord. Sharada’s parents, though poor, believed that their only daughter needed to be educated. Sharada was a smart and honest girl. She studied hard and was a topper in her class.

One early morning the landlord came running out of his house and shouted “I have lost a bag of Gold Coins. There were 50 coins, everybody start searching for it.” Soon the news of the lost bag spread and the entire village was looking for it. Even by evening, nobody found the bag. The landlord was disappointed. Next day, when Sharada was on her way to school, she found the bag with gold coins near a banyan tree. She knew that it was the bag that the landlord had lost. She ran back home to her father and gave the bag of gold coins. The father told his daughter that they need to give it back to the landlord immediately and they left home. As they were leaving home, couple of neighbours met them and said “Why do you want to return the bag of gold coins? Anyway, the landlord has too much money and he seems to think that he has lost it. You work so hard, day and night for your daughter. Keep this money for her future. We will not tell anyone about it.” Sharada’s father replied “We may need money, but not that belongs to someone else.” Sharada added “Keeping this money would mean stealing the money. We are not thieves!” Saying this, they left to the landlord’s house.

The landlord was thrilled to get his bag back, but also got a wicked thought. He started shouting at Sharada and her father. He said “How dare you steal my money? I had 75 coins in this, now there are only 50. You stole the other 25!” Sharada and her father were shocked at this! They said they were returning whatever they found. But the landlord continued scolding them and said he would take them to the court. At the court, the judge heard the case and asked the landlord “When you lost the bag, I believe you said that the bag contained 50 gold coins, but now you are saying there were 75 gold coins in the bag.” The landlord said “Your honour, I was confused. The bag with 50 coins is with me but I lost the bag with 75 gold coins.” Then the judge asked Sharada and her father as to how many coins were there in the bag that they found. Both of them said that the bag had only 50 coins. Having heard both, the judge understood the wicked intention of the landlord and wanted to teach him a lesson. The judge gave his verdict “The landlord has clearly stated that he has lost a bag with 75 gold coins. Sharada and her father have found a bag with 50 coins. It is clear that this bag of 50 coins do not belong to the landlord and since there is no claim for this bag, Sharada can keep it for her future. If anyone else finds a bag with 75 gold coins, they can return it to the landlord.” Saying this, he dismissed the case.

-Dr H S Nagaraj

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The importance of honesty

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