Why Being Honest and Failing Is Better Than Lying and Succeeding

The other day, I was asked a question at work that, if answered truthfully, would make me look bad.

“Did you complete that report I asked you for?”

No. I hadn’t finished it, even though I had said I would by that time.

In that moment, I wondered if I should lie. “Yes, I did.” Maybe I could fool him and escape the predicament. Maybe I could by myself some extra time to actually do the work, and no one would be the wiser.

But I didn’t.

“No, I didn’t finish it yet. I’m sorry. I know I said I would.”

He was disappointed. “Oh,” he said, frowning.

“But I’ll finish it right now, and have it ready as soon as possible.”

Telling On Yourself

“Telling on yourself” is a tactic used by many addicts and abusers of drugs & alcohol in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. It means if you mess up, or do something you’re not supposed to, you “tell on yourself” to someone who will call you out on your shit, but also help you to get better in the future.

I want to . I don’t want to short-change myself by lying.

If I had lied to my coworker at work, I wouldn’t be learning anything other than how to (badly) evade responsibility, chipping away of my precious integrity yet again.

I want to be a reliable person. I want to be trustworthy. Worthy of responsibility. Proud of myself.

Criminals, liars, cheaters, and deceivers aren’t “proud” of themselves.

Good job! You successfully betrayed that person who trusted and loved you.

Alright! I stabbed that person in the back, hurting them in the process. Nice!”

If I am honest where I mess up and fail, I will eventually train myself to avoid getting in those situations in the first place. I can “sleep the sleep of the brave,” to quote Alexander Dumas. I can rest knowing what most of the world can’t ever know: that I (actually) did everything I could to be honest and courageous.

I finished the report, just in time. Next time, I’ll have it ready before it’s needed.

And that’s a lesson I wouldn’t have learned if I had lied.

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