Dishonesty: Misconceptions Made on Purpose

I haven’t come to you with a new installment for the blog in some time – at least one that involved my own thoughts on this subject and virtue: HONESTY. Let’s start by taking the counsel of the Dalai Lama, and his understanding of the term:


The Dalai Lama speaks on Honesty

There are two dimensions I’d like to write to you about regarding this term: Dishonesty – and its antithesis: Honesty. Like me, many of you in recovery have found there is another indispensable reference book that we use, almost as often as our Big Book and Basic Reference. It’s our “Dictionary.” Briefly, here are the initially important yet simple definitions on this installments focus of discussion:

*HONESTY: the quality or fact of being honest;  uprightness and fairness; truthfulness, sincerity, or frankness; freedom from deceit or fraud.

*DISHONESTY: a disposition to lie, cheat, or steal; to defraud. a deceiving act or statement. This can be enlarged to a point of pathology, where a person becomes a chronic, compulsive and even a sociopathic liar.

Going into the many synonyms will just be confusing (and of course – we all remember how important it is to”keep it simple”). Let’s start with Dishonesty. How about making a mutual agreement that fitting that behavioral pattern will be met with a guideline established by one’s “intent.”

We can all be mistaken, innocently, by just not paying attention. But if “It’s our intent to deceive”, that’s Dishonesty. Well “wait” you say,…..”what about the proverbial White Lie and all that”? If what you mean is that when you purposefully deceive someone to keep from hurting their feelings i.e., telling them information you’ve decided they don’t need to know by either being silent, changing the subject or furnishing false information to keep from shattering and shocking their feelings,… have to make the call as to whether that is ethical. Does your Honesty standard require you and should you be rigorous in all instances? How much strict scrutiny Honesty should we really demand of ourselves?

A White Lie can easily disguise something much more important: the “dishonest with-holding of important material evidence.” Don’t get it? Alright then, you want another example and I don’t blame you. How about this one? You don’t tell a blind-woman that it’s a good thing she cannot see, because the man she just married is as ugly as a troll,….or vice-verse. It would be brutal honesty. That’s not dishonest, it’s actually considerate,..and by the way, who are we to judge, eh? Especially if we nearly started snickering. But, let’s say your best friend is telling you that he just got engaged to a woman you KNOW is jumping other men while they’ve been together. If you just remain quiet about it, is that minding your own business and being discreet or is it dishonest? THAT – could be withholding material evidence. It’s deceit,…but it’s your call, you could just “stick to your own side of the street.” It depends on whether Honesty coincides with your own loyalty test.

So here’s my point then: I guess what was meant as “the blanket necessity of rigorous honesty” in the 1935 version could be just - “too rigorous” for realistic contemporary standards. Honesty isn’t always black and white or right and wrong. There are situations when one’s own ethical standards apply. They’re judgement calls like self-incrimination. They’re grey areas, and since we’ve gotten into judgement and ethics, or lack of when it comes to romantic discretion, we better here from Bill Joel for a little heartfelt insight. (Thanks again U-Tube)


Now, let’s get into Honesty and recovery, starting with it’s classical history of importance, beginning with The Four Absolutes of The Oxford Group – the underlying Principles of 12 Step Recovery:

They are: Absolute Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness and Love.

The first principle of recovery’s path to a spiritual awakening is HONESTY. “Know what’s amazing”? The word is never mentioned in the actual body of any of the 12 Steps, though it’s fair to say that it is implied in Step One in our “admission of powerlessness”. The original author calls upon it using strong repetition in his immortal essay at the beginning of Chapter 5:



Addressing those who fail to recover, it states that they are:

“Usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.”

The explanation is such that it implies that “those” who are unfortunately born “that” way – (do they mean pathologically dishonest or sociopathic?) – are hapless victims of mental disease or some yet undiagnosed genetic anomaly, and “as such” they cannot help themselves. Maybe a little antiquated and unrealistic.

In my mind, I don’t know of anyone who was “born that way”, but I do believe that it can become a pathological condition of the afflicted when they have resorted to its constant use as a defense mechanism – a conditioned response developed over time,…maybe years. Perhaps the sociopathic-narcissist, who is without conscience and having a perverse sense of self-importance and self-righteousness would then use this as an excuse for acquiring their pathological pattern of constant lying. If it could help them manipulate someone into doing or thinking what they wanted – count on it. You’ve heard the common explanation: “I can’t help it, I was born this way,” or even less rationale: “I am powerless over myself.” There is mostly no such thing – other than in the figment of that person’s imagination. To my knowledge, there is no Pinocchio’s Syndrome. It does not exist – a lie unto itself . Other than,…………..

What about someone who is a chronic late stage addict/alcoholic or compulsive gambler – sex addict – co-dependent. Are they able to help themselves? Obviously not – that’s why they came to the point of admitting their affliction. They need help. They cannot do it on their own.             

*Pathological: dealing with a diseased or mentally disturbed state.

But here’s what the pro’s say about the difference between a sociopath and a pathological liar – chronic liar or habitual liar – “same-same, huh”?

What is the Difference Between a Sociopath, a Compulsive, a Pathological, a Chronic, and a Habitual Liar?

A Sociopath

A sociopath is typically defined as someone who lies incessantly to get their way and does so with little concern for others.  A sociopath is often goal-oriented (i.e., lying is focused – it is done to get one’s way).  Sociopaths have little regard or respect for the rights and feelings of others.  Sociopaths are often charming and charismatic, but they use their talented social skills in manipulative and self-centered ways.

Compulsive Liar

A compulsive liar is defined as someone who lies out of habit.  Lying is their normal and reflexive way of responding to questions.  Compulsive liars bend the truth about everything, large and small.  For a compulsive liar, telling the truth is very awkward and uncomfortable while lying feels right.  Compulsive lying is usually thought to develop in early childhood, due to being placed in an environment where lying was necessary.  For the most part, compulsive liars are not overly manipulative and cunning (unlike sociopaths), rather they simply lie out of habit – an automatic response which is hard to break and one that takes its toll on a relationship. Up until that point their biggest risk of Dishonesty was with themselves ( and others caught the side-stream). They were delusional, unable to admit the grave reality of their addiction or alcoholism even while alone unto themselves.

Let’s run through a few other dishonest situations that typify common behavior amongst the alcoholic/addict.

*Self-delusion: We just got done touching on this. As Addicts and Alcoholics, we have learned to spin, rationalize and imagine circumstances which make us and situations other than we really are. We all remember: “I can quit,….I’m just not ready yet. The Victim Mentality: If you had my blah-blah-blah you’d escape too. I’m not like the rest of you. 

*The Chronic Rationalizer: Of course I’m an addict/alcoholic, no sane person in this insane world wouldn’t be. Thus seeing things through a perspective of our warped imaginations, set to view through a prism that protects us from reality and the whole truth of things.

We may not be drunk, stoned or living addictive behaving anymore but we can apply these dishonest filters to even the clearest of situations in our recovery and once we start, it’s like drinking, drugging or behaving. In a flash we are back to our old patterns, living in the insanity of being untruthful with ourselves. So in this regard we must practice Shakespeare’s old adage with a slight twist: WITH thine own self be true. We must continually ask ourselves: Am I being honest with myself and others about this situation – or is my old friend rationalization sneaking back into my recovery to masque the truth with a clever spin that’s really a lie. What is really going on here? That – is really the first step in any given dilemma.

In recovery, there is one form of insincerity and dishonest display that really tests my patience. It is practiced far to often: Feigned Humility: This is the phony patronizer who pretends they are humble, preaching to all of us about the value of Humility and by their subterfuged arrogance, obviously has little to none at all. You’ve heard it so many times, like: “When I’ve got my head-up like I just heard someone demonstrate, I always take a moment to right-size myself.” That’s giving unsolicited advice folks and its really masqueraded condescension. They think they’re clever, when they are really obnoxiously talking someone down. Expect their  EGO false pride sermon to follow. One of the great things about recovery? You can always slip-out or scroll ’em.”If you spot it you got it”? Hand me the air-sickness bag, quick.

Woah! Spent so much time discussing Dishonesty – to tell you the truth – I’m out of room. Next Time: HONESTY – the virtue – it’s merits and rewards. Wishing all the best of contentment – joy in our lives of recovery. Naturally a humble plug for the book 🙂



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