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Beautify your tongues, O people, with truthfulness, and adorn your souls with the ornament of honesty. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 336.
A few months ago, my husband and I went mattress shopping. Our dilapidated, aging mattress no longer functioned appropriately or comfortably. We stopped at various department stores, discount shops, retail stores, and mattress chains searching for the perfect bed.
At one of our first stops, we had quite a memorable experience, which enlightened us to the ways of retail–and the dishonest approach some sales folk use.
At this (unnamed) mattress store, we excitedly noticed a sale going on. We tried a few mattresses, and after lying down and testing several, we thought we might have found The One. The salesman seemed nice; however, his unusual physicality could not go unnoticed. Walking with a slight limp, his face flushed, his eyes red-rimmed, and his shoulders painfully slouched forward, he told us that the bed we had chosen was exactly like his mattress at home, and he slept and felt great! (The mismatch between his words and his haggard and exhausted appearance was our first clue about his dishonesty.)
My husband and I stepped aside for a few minutes and discussed our thoughts. A wise friend had once told us that no matter how great the offer, sleep on your decision (no pun intended). If you’re not allowed the time you need, then it’s not a good decision.
Here’s where it got a little strange at the (unnamed) mattress store.
My husband and I ventured over to the register, informing the salesman that, despite the great sale, we weren’t making a decision right away. We told him we’d sleep on the offer (sorry) and come back in the morning.
At this point, our seemingly pleasant salesman devolved into Emperor Palpatine, that insidious Star Wars character known for his deception. The salesman’s friendly voice and charming words changed. The deal no longer existed. Probably the scariest part was his evil laugh.
Needless to say, we politely made our exit from that establishment. But the story has a happy ending. After a few more weeks of careful shopping, we found an honest salesman who sold us the perfect mattress–without unpleasantness, prevarication and undue pressure.
Have you had a similar experience? I’m sure you have. As fallible humans, we all face daily struggles with honesty and truthfulness. We’ve probably all lied at one time or another. Perhaps you’ve lied to escape a parental scolding as a child, or to avoid the embarrassing consequences of doing something you weren’t proud of as an adult.
I know I myself have not been honest on a few occasions, although I like to think that’s mostly out of a desire not to hurt someone’s feelings. I really do strive daily toward my goal of being a completely honest person.
Why is honesty important? The progress of the world and the attainment of our individual spiritual virtues depend upon truthfulness, according to the Baha’i writings:
Truthfulness is the foundation of all the virtues of the world of humanity. Without truthfulness, progress and success in all of the worlds of God are impossible for a soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the divine qualities will also become realized. – Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 459.
In this next quote, Abdu’l-Baha describes the importance of honesty and truthfulness even further, by discussing the human struggle between good and evil. In referring to our choices between superficial pleasures and evil desires (such as aggression, power, and hate) and the spiritual goals of kindness, honesty, friendship, and love, he says that those who practice honesty:
…are stars in the high heavens of guidance, celestial bodies in the skies of divine grace, who with all their powers put the dark to flight. They break down the foundations of malevolence and hate. They cherish but one desire for the world and all its peoples: well-being and peace. By them, the ramparts of warfare and aggression are battered down. They have truthfulness and honest dealing and friendship for their goal, and kindness even toward a vicious foe; until at last they change this prison of treachery, the world, into a mansion of utmost trust, and turn this jail-house of hatred and malevolence and spite, into God’s paradise. – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 231.
Baha’is believe that honesty can potentially create a world of trustworthy souls. When people are honest with you, don’t you trust them completely? When that happens, friendships build their strong bonds on trust, creating a beautiful paradise on Earth.
Please join me in this quest to eradicate dishonesty from the world. In doing so, we’ll inevitably turn Earth into a home of trust, friendship, and ultimately, peace.