Honesty is the value that holds a civil society together. Three generations ago in Sibu, Wong Nai Siong, the Foochow Pioneer of Sibu, and Rev James Hoover adhered to the policy of practising honesty in the new Foochow Settlement of Sibu as a paramount value. Any one not telling the truth would be shipped back to China. That punishment was a feared deterent.
Thus, it was a common way of starting a Foochow conversation in the early 20th century in Sibu, by saying, “I am not telling you a lie. Believe me.” Even when preaching on Sundays, pastors would state “This is the truth of God, I don’t lie to you…”
Over the years, as children we have heard many stories of truthful and untruthful people and what results they faced, as part of our moral education and upbringing from our Foochow elders.
In the 21st century, sad to say, honesty as a value is threatened. Amidst tales of dishonesty and lack of transparency in our multi faced society, it is hard for even Christians to remain true to the teachings of Christ. Adhering to what St. Paul wrote is not easy, “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4.25)
Woman in the Mall
Not too long ago, I was watching a promotion in a shopping mall. And I saw a rather unsightly scene in which a shopkeeper had a struggle with a woman shopper who apparently had taken an item. Upon being caught, she claimed that she thought the item was a “free gift” and that she could take it. However the shopkeeper said that it was not a free gift, and holding tightly to her hand.
All the commotion was in front of her children and many other children too.
Was the woman totally honest? Had she meant to take the item?
This kind of behavior would definitely leave a scar on a child or children who witnessed the scene.
“I am glad I did it.”
On a positive side, my son upon entering his first year university in a foreign country “lost” his small bag while rushing for his bus. He was a bit heartbroken because the small bag contained a small note book, some family photos, just one or two dollars for his return bus fare and a snack – it was all the worldly possessions he had in the foreign land. Any way he had lectures to attend to. That night he really did not sleep well.
The following morning, he was surprised to see an elderly man entering his lecture hall and calling out his name. My son was so astounded that he almost slipped on the steps of the lecture theatre. It was a good thing, the lecture had not started.
The elderly man shook hands with him and asked him if he had lost a small bag. My son was so overwhelmed that the man had taken a bus all the way to his university to return him his lost bag.
His first remark was, “It is ok son. I thought you might like the photos to be returned to you. And you have some money in the bag too.”
It was not only a precious moment for my son, it was a healing moment.
The old man said in parting, “Don’t worry son, it is a small matter. I am glad I did it.” He waved and then he was gone. My son did not even get his name in the rush.
Moral education in our society
“Your friends love the ‘true you’, not the one you’ve artificially created. Honesty attracts honesty. People who are trustworthy and honest attract trustworthy and honest friends. And those are the best friends to have,” said a Moral Education teacher in a school.
In fact one medical doctor relates better health to good character. He thinks that honesty has been linked to less colds, less fatigue, less depression, and less anxiety. Honest people are better able to relax because they are just being themselves and naturally, feel better about themselves and less overwhelmed. He suggested that one act of honesty a day will really make your day.
The Boys’ Scouts live with the maxim, “Do a good deed a day”. That maxim has really helped many people towards better and honest living.
“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway,” said Mother Teresa.
And finally, Proverbs 28: 8 states, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.”
Grace Methodist Church, Miri