“Honesty is the best policy.” – Benjamin Franklin
Or is it?
Benjamin Franklin seems to think so, but he also said this:
“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” – Benjamin Franklin
Now, the “wrong thing” referred to in this quote may sometimes be a lie, but the wise Franklin also knew that telling the truth with no filter is a practice that is sure to end in pain—for you, for another, or for all those involved!
So, is honesty always the best policy? When would it not be the best policy? These are questions many people have asked over countless years.
As such, there are a lot of different ideas about what honesty is, the morality of honesty vs. lying, and how honest one should really be in practice. Some people endorse little white lies, while others condemn them. Some say that lying is fine if it protects an innocent person, while others believe there is never a good reason to lie. It can be tough to navigate between all of these contrasting ideas about honesty.
For this piece, we delved into the theories and philosophies behind honesty and gathered some of the best resources for teaching and encouraging this character trait. Hopefully, this information will help you figure out where you stand on this interesting subject, and what kind of honesty you would like to strive for!
Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology including strengths, values and self-compassion and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students or employees.
You can download the free PDF here.
This article contains:
- Definition & Meaning of Honesty
- Theory: Radical Honesty and More
- Assessing Honesty: Test and Scale
- Teaching Honesty & Integrity: Examples, Stories, Quotes & Songs
- 3 Honesty Worksheets (PDF) for Adults
- 5 Honesty Activities for Children & Teens
- 3 Honesty Worksheets (PDF) for Children & Teens
- A Take Home Message
Definition & Meaning of Honesty
“Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving.” – James E. Faust
What is honesty?
The answer you get to this question will depend on who you ask.
There is a general understanding of what honesty is in society, but there’s plenty of room to dive into what really constitutes honesty.
To some, honesty may be defined by its synonyms, such as fairness, straightforwardness, sincerity, integrity, or trustworthiness (“Honesty”, 2016).
To others, honesty may be “speaking the truth and abiding by the rules” (Borghini, 207).
To others still, the definition of honesty may be “never faking reality in order to gain a value” (Biddle, 2013).
Honesty can be understood as an act (e.g., speaking the truth, refusing to lie), a trait (e.g., authenticity), and a disposition (e.g., tendency or habit to be forthcoming with relevant truths), among other things.
However you conceptualize honesty, you likely agree that at least some level of honesty is an important trait to cultivate. Being honest with others is essential for creating and maintaining healthy relationships, and being honest with yourself is vital for personal development and growth, as well as self-acceptance and self-esteem (Durham, 2017).
Theory: Radical Honesty and More
“Honest is the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a failure.” – James Altucher
Since it’s difficult to reach unanimous agreement on the very definition of honesty, it should come as no surprise that there are many theories and philosophies on honesty. These theories pose and answer questions like:
- What does it mean to be honest?
- How important is honesty?
- Is it immoral to be dishonest?
- Is dishonesty every acceptable?
As with any other complex and significant topic, people have come up with a wide variety of responses to these questions, some of which are diametrically opposed to others.
To give you an idea of the spectrum across which these theories fall, three will be presented: one at or near each end of the spectrum, and one that lies somewhere in the middle. Think of the spectrum as “absolute honesty” at the left end and “absolute dishonesty” at the right end, something like this:
Absolute Honesty <———————————- Mixed ———————————-> Absolute Dishonesty
Although most people agree that honesty is at least somewhat important, there is a group that places a great deal of importance on being honest—not just mostly honest, but completely honest at all times and in all interactions—with one important exception (Jacobs, 2007). These people would be placed near the extreme “always tell the truth” end of the spectrum.
This total honesty is the referred to as “radical honesty.” Those who dedicate themselves to radical honesty commit to removing all lies, both big and small, from their interactions with others. This total honesty is adopted with the hopes of improving their relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners, as well as an overall boost to quality of life.
As mentioned earlier, practitioners of radical honesty make only one exception to their commitment to total honesty—when telling the truth would result in terrible consequences for someone who does not deserve it (think lying to the Nazis to protect Anne Frank and her family).
With this exception, those who subscribe to radical honesty avoid the absolute extreme “truth” end of the spectrum; the only people to the left of the radical honesty folks are those who are known as “deontologists.” Deontologists subscribe to the idea that every ac is either right or wrong, regardless of its consequences (“Lying”, 2014). Lying is always wrong, therefore even lying with the best of intentions is still wrong. Radical honesty might not seem quite as radical in comparison to these rigid truth-tellers!
To learn more about radical honesty, visit the website at http://radicalhonesty.com/. You can also hear about the life-enhancing potential of practicing radical honesty straight from Dr. Blanton, the founder of the radical honesty approach, in this TEDx Talk.
Utilitarian View on Honesty
Utilitarians, also known as consequentialists, generally see lying and dishonesty as immoral and unacceptable; however, they see honesty and dishonesty as a problem with shades of gray rather than a thick line differentiating black from white (“Lying”, 2014).
Those who subscribe to utilitarianism assess the “rightness” or “wrongness” of an action by considering the consequences of the action; if something good comes out of an action, it is probably right, while an action that produces bad or harmful results is likely wrong.
Some utilitarians judge each potential lie separately, evaluating the expected consequences of the act and determining its rightness or wrongness independently of any other lies. Others might follow a set of rules to help them determine when a lie is right and when it is wrong, rather than considering each case separately.
The main thing that separates utilitarians from each end of the spectrum is the belief that sometimes it is right to tell the truth, and sometimes it is right to lie.
Now that we’ve explored the left end of the spectrum and the middle point of the spectrum, let’s turn our focus to the right end.
Those towards the “dishonest” end of the spectrum have a different view on honesty altogether—namely, they don’t believe honesty has any inherent morality. Utilitarians may justify lying in some cases, but justification requires expectations that the good that comes out of lying will outweigh the inherent “wrongness” of lying.
Ethical egoists have no such qualms with determining the rightness or wrongness of dishonesty; in their view, honesty is not automatically good and dishonesty is not automatically bad (Moseley, n.d.). The only measure of whether something is “good” or “bad,” “right” or “wrong,” is whether it contributes to one’s own self-interest. Therefore, if telling a lie gets you ahead, it is the right thing to do. If telling the truth hinders you, it is the wrong thing to do.
Unsurprisingly, not many people openly adhere to this philosophy of honesty, although it’s worth noting how often we see examples of this philosophy in action.
Although there are clearly many ways to approach honesty, it’s necessary to settle on a general idea of meaning. For the purposes of this article, we’ll go with a fairly generic, but unobjectionable, idea of meaning as being:
- True (Durham, 2017)
Assessing Honesty: Test and Scale
Now that we’ve decided what honesty is, we come to another important question: How do we measure or assess honesty?
What criteria should we use to determine whether someone is honest or not? How do we know if someone is committed to or complacent about honesty?
There are a few ways to assess honesty and/or beliefs about honesty. We’ll cover the most widely used ones below.
General Trust Scale
The General Trust Scale was developed by researchers Yamagashi and Yamagashi in 1994. This scale will not provide an answer about how honest or trustworthy the respondent is, but it will provide other valuable information—how trustworthy they find others, which is an important insight into their own relationship with honesty.
This scale includes only six items, scored on a scale from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree). The six items are as follows:
- Most people are basically honest.
- Most people are trustworthy.
- Most people are basically good and kind.
- Most people are trustful of others.
- I am trustful.
- Most people will respond in kind when they are trusted by others.
A person’s responses to these items are averaged to produce a general score (between 1 and 5) of his or her belief in the honesty and trustworthiness of others.
Trust in People Scale
Similar to the General Trust Scale, the Trust in People Scale provides a measure of the respondent’s general level of trust towards other people (1964 Election Study). It was first established in a 1964 post-election study, and it has been used in national surveys ever since.
There are only three items, and each presents only two options: a high trust option and a low trust option. The items and their response options are as follows:
- Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people?
a. Most people can be trusted.
b. Can’t be too careful.
- Would you say that most of the time, people try to be helpful, or that they are mostly just looking out for themselves?
a. Try to be helpful.
b. Look out for themselves.
- Do you think that most people would try to take advantage of you if they got the chance or would they try to be fair?
a. Take advantage.
b. Try to be fair.
For each question, option a is the high-trust option and option b is the low-trust option. The high-trust option is worth one point, while the low-trust option is worth zero points. To produce a score of trust in people, sum the points for each question. The score will be between 0 and 3, with 3 representing the highest level of trust in others and 0 representing the lowest level of trust in others.
HEXACO Personality Inventory-Revised
Unlike the previous two scales, this scale will provide an assessment of the respondent’s own honesty rather than their sense of the honesty of others.
The HEXACO model is quite similar to the Big Five model of personality, although it adds one factor and differs slightly on the other factors.
The Big Five factors are:
- Openness to Experience
The HEXACO factors include:
- Emotionality (analogous to Big Five’s Neuroticism)
- Agreeableness (vs. Anger)
- Openness to Experience (Lee & Ashton, 2009)
In case you’re not familiar with the Big Five factors, we’ll go over them briefly before covering the added factor in the HEXACO model.
Openness to experience can be understood as the personality factor that determines how open and accepting a person is of new experiences, bold thinking, and being vulnerable with others.
Conscientiousness refers to a person’s tendency towards controlling their impulses and acting in socially acceptable ways.
Extroversion is a widely known factor that has an equally well-known flipside: introversion. Extroversion (vs. introversion) concerns a person’s source of energy; extroverts derive energy from interacting with others, while introverts recharge when they are alone.
Agreeableness is generally understood as how well a person gets along with others, or how easily they interact successfully with others.
Neuroticism (or Emotionality) refers to a person’s general sense of self-esteem, self-confidence, and emotional stability.
(Note: If you would like to take a deeper dive into the Big Five, you can find more information in our piece on this personality theory.)
Finally, the factor that you are probably not so familiar with is the Honesty-Humility factor. This factor covers the respondent’s willingness to manipulate others for personal gain, a tendency towards breaking the rules, or sense of entitlement. Those who score high in this factor are more inclined to be honest and humble, while those low in this factor are likely to show less concern for truth and modesty.
The HEXACO Personality Inventory-Revised, or HEXACO PI-R, includes 100 items and produces a score for each of the six personality factors. Items are rated by respondents on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Respondents are instructed to provide an answer for each item, even if they are not entirely sure of their answer.
Each item corresponds to one of the factors. We’d rather not inundate you with items, so we’ll simply provide a sample item from each factor for you to look over:
“If I want something from a person I dislike, I will act very nicely toward that person in order to get it.”
“When I suffer from a painful experience, I need someone to make me feel comfortable.”
“In social situations, I’m usually the one who makes the first move.”
“I am usually quite flexible in my opinions when people disagree with me.”
“I make decisions based on the feeling of the moment rather than on careful thought.”
Openness to Experience Factor
“I’m interested in learning about the history and politics of other countries.”
As you may have noticed when considering the sample conscientiousness item, some items are reverse-scored. Once the proper items have been reverse-scored, take the average of all items per factor to produce an overall score for each factor. Higher scores indicate a greater tendency towards each personality trait, while lower scores indicate greater levels of each trait’s opposite.
To learn more about the HEXACO PI-R, visit the website at http://hexaco.org/.
Teaching Honesty & Integrity: Examples, Stories, Quotes & Songs
“No legacy is so rich as honesty.” – William Shakespeare
Now that we have a good understanding of what honesty is and how we can measure it as a personality trait, we can move on to the next important question: How do we teach it?
Ask any teacher and he or she will tell you that teaching character traits is difficult! It’s not as easy as teaching grammar, arithmetic, or history, but it is certainly not impossible. There are many strategies, tips, and suggestions for teaching a character trait like honesty.
Parenting expert Joanne Stern provides three good guidelines to follow when teaching your children honesty (2011):
- Talk with your children, early and often, about the value of honesty.
- Model honesty for your children, through your words and your actions.
- Focus more on encouraging and appreciating honesty than on punishing dishonesty.
Once your kids reach an age at which they can tell the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie, you can begin instilling the value of honesty. They may not completely understand the value of honesty yet, but they can learn that they are expected to tell the truth and that they must face the consequences if they do not.
Follow these tips to help your child learn to be honest:
- Avoid labels. Don’t call your child a liar.
- Don’t ask questions when you already know the answer; this will only set them up to lie.
- Work with your child to reduce any unnecessary stress that may be weighing them down and encouraging them to lie.
- Avoid emphasizing bad behavior; try to bring up your child’s good behavior rather than their bad behavior.
- Find out why your child is fibbing; there may be important reasons that you don’t know about.
- Praise truth-telling instead of just punishing dishonesty.
- Don’t forget “little white lies.” Encourage your child to be honest, but not brutally and unnecessarily honest.
- Teach your child that lying doesn’t work; it’s never a good way to get what you want.
- Keep your cool—don’t overreact or yell if your child lies.
- Set a good example. The best way to teach honesty is to be honest (VanClay, 2017).
While these tips and suggestions are meant for parents, many of them can also be practiced by teachers and other caretakers as well. In addition, there are many other strategies for teaching honesty.
Stories are an excellent way to teach children honesty. There are some classic stories that can be used to encourage truth-telling, such as The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
In this short story, a boy comes up with a story about a wolf trying to eat his sheep. He receives a lot of attention from others but is ultimately found out. Later, a wolf actually shows up to take his sheep, but nobody believes him because he lied about it before. This story not only encourages children to tell the truth but shows them why lying may backfire!
The Honest Woodcutter is another good story for teaching that honesty can come with its own rewards. It describes a poor woodcutter who loses his axe in the river. He’s very upset because he has no money to buy a new one. Suddenly, a fairy appears in the river and presents a golden axe, saying “I found this axe in the river; is it yours?” The woodcutter answers honestly, saying the axe is not his. The fairy then presents him with a silver axe, but the woodcutter again tells the fairy that this was not his axe. When the fairy presents him with his own wood axe, he replies that it is his, and thanks the fairy for giving him his axe. The fairy, seeing that the man is so honest, gives him all three axes as a reward.
For more ideas on stories, you can use to teach honesty and other character traits, follow this link.
Along with these stories, you can come up with your own, personalized stories for encouraging honesty in children you teach or take care of.
In addition to stories, there are many books that can be used to teach honesty. Some books you will need to read with your child, and others your child may be able to read on his or her own.
A few good examples are:
- Sam Tells Stories by Thierry Robberecht
- The Honest-to-Goodness Truth by Patricia McKissack
- Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire by Diane deGroat
- The Boy Who Cried Bigfootby Scott Magoon
- Little Croc’s Purse by Lizzie Findlay
For more suggestions on books that encourage honesty in children, click here.
For older children in particular, sometimes a good quote can help them understand the importance of honesty in a way that they hadn’t understood before.
Try sharing these quotes with the children you teach or care for, and discuss what they mean.
“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.” – Mark Twain
This quote shows that it may actually be easier to tell the truth than to lie.
“Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure there is one less rascal in the world.” – Thomas Carlyle
Use this quote to emphasize that being honest is not only important on an individual level, but contributes to a better and more honest society.
“A half truth is a whole lie.” – Yiddish Proverb
This quote serves to underscore that leaving out important details can be considered a lie, even if you offer parts of the truth.
“When you stretch the truth, watch out for the snapback.” – Bill Copeland
This quote can be used to let children know that, in addition to being wrong, lying can also have some very negative unintended consequences.
If your child is more of an auditory learner, try one of these fun songs about the importance of honesty.
Truth Song (Honesty Song)
All About Honesty
Honesty (for Kindergarteners)
3 Honesty Worksheets (PDF) for Adults
Although most honesty worksheets and handouts are targeted towards children, these two honesty worksheets can be effective when used by adults.
Great Character Traits
This worksheet is intended to help the user identify specific traits, but you could also begin with a specific trait (i.e., honesty) and work your way from there.
The worksheet lists 7 questions for you to answer:
- Name a favorite person or leader who demonstrates great character.
- What character traits does this person have?
- How does this person show these character traits?
- What character traits are most important for good leaders to have? Why?
- What character trait do you need to work on most? How will you develop it?
- List a trait, then how the trait is demonstrated.
- Make a poem, song, poster, or story about the importance of good character.
Instead of answering the first question then moving on to the second, identify honesty as the answer to the second question and then identify a leader that displays honesty.
The worksheet was designed for children and adolescents, but adults will certainly find valuable insight through completing this worksheet as well.
Click here to see this worksheet.
Honesty Song Worksheet
This worksheet draws lessons on honesty from one of the most well-known and beloved singers of the past few decades: Billy Joel.
You may remember his song “Honesty.” If not, that’s okay—you’ll get to practice an honesty activity and hear a great new song as well!
There are three steps to this worksheet.
First, discuss the following questions with another person:
- How important is honesty for a relationship?
- Is it healthy to be totally honest with a lover?
Next, read the incomplete lyrics on the worksheet. Notice that there are some words in capital letters that need to be transformed in order to fit the context. Before you continue on with the exercise, ask yourself what kind of word would best fit the gaps.
Once you have filled in all the blanks in the lyrics, move on to the final step.
Listen to the song and check how well your work matches the actual lyrics.
Consider the lyrics, and how well you believe the song describes what honesty is, how important it is, and how common it is in our world.
You may not completely agree with the sentiment expressed in the song, but that’s okay—the important thing is to get a better understanding on honesty and come to terms with your own beliefs on the subject.
You can download or print this worksheet for use with adults and older teens by clicking here.
Recovering Your Honesty
This worksheet is specifically intended for those who have struggled with addiction or substance abuse and concerns the things they have done to hide or cover up their behavior. It could be adapted to suit other significant problems, such as serial cheating, habitual lying, and other problematic behavior, but it is not suitable for the less harmful “garden variety” or little white lies.
First, the individual is instructed to list every verbal lie they can think of that they used to cover up their behavior. These lies can be about when, where, or how the individual used the lie, or all three. The user should also identify the people he lied to.
Next, he is directed to identify other lies he told during his addiction, including who he lied to.
After the verbal lies are listed, the individual is still not done—she should then identify all other deceptive behavior she engaged in related to her addiction. They may not be verbal lies, but there are certainly ways to be dishonest without speaking!
The next step is to identify what the user did when he was caught in lies and dishonesty. He should be descriptive and honest about his actions when he was found out.
Next, the user must identify the impact her dishonesty has had on her loved ones, including her spouse or partner(s), parents, children, co-workers, manager, etc. She should write down who she hurt, and identify examples of how her behavior hurt them.
While she is on the subject, she should identify how her behavior has hurt another important person in her life—herself.
Once the user has identified the harm he caused himself, he should move on to identifying the feelings that he experienced due to his dishonesty. Once he has identified each feeling, he should note how he dealt with it. He will likely find that he could have dealt with his feelings in much more constructive ways.
In the next step, the user should identify any forms of dishonesty she is continuing to use while in recovery, as well as who she is being dishonest with (including herself).
Finally, the user is ready to move on to thinking about the potential for positive outcomes related to being honest.
He should make a list of the positive effects that may come about from taking the risks to be honest in those areas that he continues to be dishonest about.
Then, he should identify any current barriers in place that inhibit his practice of honesty with the people in his life. Once he has identified some of the biggest barriers in place, he should come up with a plan on how to push through these barriers and be more honest with those he loves.
The next step for the user is to develop a goal for improving her ability to be honest while in recovery. She should develop a plan for continuing to become more and more honest, both with herself and with others, during her continued recovery.
Finally, the worksheet ends with the following encouragement and reminder:
“Keep in mind that becoming honest in recovery is not about indiscriminately doing a fifth step with everyone you know. You are still in charge of making decisions about self-disclosure with others. You get to decide what to reveal, to whom, and when to reveal it. Working with a 12 step recovery sponsor can assist you in making decisions about revealing old dishonest behaviors. Sponsorship can also guide Making Amends in the eighth step.”
To view, download, or print this worksheet from Dr. Peggy L. Ferguson, click here.
5 Honesty Activities for Children & Teens
Sometimes the best way to teach children about something is to get them actively engaged in exercises and activities relevant to the topic. Below, several effective activities are listed that can be successfully applied in classrooms, small groups, and even at home. If you’re interested in seeing more honesty activities, quotes, and questions click here and scroll to the second page.
In a group of children, select two people to play a part in a role play.
The first person will role play a pie salesperson who is dishonest. They will try to make a big impression on the listeners, with exaggerated claims about the pie they are selling.
The second person will also role play a pie salesperson, but one who is honest instead. They will tell the truth about their pie without exaggerating or sidestepping inconvenient facts.
The group should watch and listen carefully, and prepare to discuss after the role plays are finished.
Finally, an adult will guide the group through a discussion of the differences between the two salespeople, and what it was like listening to each. The group will likely agree that the second salesperson seemed more trustworthy and that they would like to buy a pie from this person rather than the first salesperson.
Virtues Sharing Circle
This is a great activity for children that may be shy speaking in groups. It’s also a good way to connect personal experience with the practice of being honest.
Break the group into pairs, and have each pair sit together, apart from the other children.
One partner should begin by sharing a time when he did not practice honesty, and how it felt. Next, he should share a time he did practice honesty, and how that felt.
The second partner should listen attentively and acknowledge the virtue displayed by the other person in their honesty story.
When the first partner has shared both stories, the partners should switch roles and repeat the exercise.
This is the simplest of activities—all you need to do is direct the children to draw an example of someone practicing honesty!
Engaging in an artistic and creative exercise such as this is a good way to get children actively engaged in thinking about honesty. The drawings will be as unique as the child, and no two will look exactly the same.
Have each child share their drawing and explain the situation it depicts to the group.
How Honest Are You?
This activity is great for a classroom. You will need signs that say “Strongly Agree” and “Strongly Disagree” posted on opposite sides of the classroom.
Begin the activity by delivering the following instructions:
“Today we are going to ask for your opinion about three different stories. Your group will line up along the wall between these signs based on how strongly you agree or disagree with how the people in the stories act. If you can’t decide, you should stand in the middle or somewhere in between the two signs.”
Next, divide the class into three groups of roughly equal size and follow these directions for each story:
- Read the story.
- Ask the three questions and have the students in the group walk to the sign that corresponds with their agreement or disagreement with the characters’ actions. Then ask a couple of the students why they chose to stand where they did. Have the group return to their seats.
- Ask the class questions and write the responses on the board, if you’d like.
To see these three stories and learn more about this activity, click here and scroll to pages 6 and 7 of the PDF.
Ice Cream Demonstration
For this activity, first, make sure the children all have permission to eat ice cream and ensure that no one is allergic! In addition to the ice cream, you will need chocolate frosting and salt.
Give everyone a small bowl of ice cream and have them taste it. Ask them how it tastes.
Next, explain that lying has the potential to ruin good things. Have each child dump some salt on their ice cream, and taste it again. It will probably not taste good!
Finally, have them cover the salt with chocolate syrup and taste it once again. Explain that the salt is like telling a lie—even if you do something good after you lie, you can never undo the damage you caused. Dishonesty cannot be covered up and forgotten about (Simple at Home, 2017).
It might be a good idea to have some backup ice cream for the children to enjoy after tasting the salted ice cream!
You can learn more about this exercise and others like it here.
3 Honesty Worksheets (PDF) for Children & Teens
If you like the idea of the activities above, but need something a little more structured, these worksheets and handouts may be exactly what you’re looking for.
Three great resources for teaching children and teens about honesty are described below.
This resource is more of a handout than a worksheet, but there are plenty of exercises and questions that children could respond to, either on this sheet or on another piece of paper.
It introduces the definition of honesty and defines the value of being honest.
Next, it walks the children through different scenarios, challenging them to decide what honesty would look like in each situation.
It also includes the “signs of success,” or signs that you are successfully practicing honesty, including:
- Saying what you mean and meaning what you say
- Making promises you can keep
- Admitting your mistakes
- Refusing to lie, cheat, or steal
- Telling the truth tactfully
- Being true to yourself and doing what you know is right.
Finally, the handout lists some affirmations that children can use to help them stay honest, such as:
- I am honest.
- I can be trusted to keep my word.
- I admit my mistakes.
- I tell the truth, kindly and tactfully.
- I have no need to impress others.
- I accept myself as I am.
This handout is on the opposite side of the activities with honesty mentioned earlier. You can find both pages here.
This simply-titled worksheet will introduce your child to the basics of honesty.
Print it out and give it to the children you teach or provide guidance to, and have them answer each question.
The questions include:
- What 3 things show your honesty?
- How do you feel when somebody isn’t being honest?
- Why is it important to be an honest person?
- Write 3 classroom rules that help everyone remember to be honest.
- What consequence should be in place for not being honest?
- If somebody isn’t being honest with you, what can you do?
- On the back of this page, make a poster about being honest and truthful.
Completing this worksheet will encourage your child to think about honesty, and why being honest is important.
You can find the worksheet here.
How Honest Are You?
This set of worksheets presents four honesty-related scenarios for your child or adolescent to consider and respond to. You may especially appreciate these worksheets if you are a fan of the Bible, as there are some religious themes and a relevant Bible verse is included at the bottom of each sheet.
First, the child is presented with this scenario: his or her brother is sneaking out of the house, and he tells the child that he’s going to a party and to tell their parents that he never left the house if they ask. The child’s task is to consider their options and come up with possible negative consequences if her parents find out she lied, and the possible positive consequences of telling her parents the truth.
Next, the child is asked to imagine that he has done something bad and is suffering from a guilty conscience. His choices are to keep quiet or talk to a parent or responsible adult and consider the consequences of each choice.
In the third scenario, the child is asked by a classmate to help her cheat. The choices are to give in or to refuse to cheat, and the child must think about the consequences of either action.
Finally, the last worksheet puts the ball in the child’s court. She is instructed to come up with her own scenario where she might be tempted to be dishonest, write down two possible actions, and consider the consequences of each action.
Completing these worksheets will help the child learn about the consequences of dishonesty, and consider both the personal and relational repercussions of his choice.
You can see the worksheets here.
A Take Home Message
I hope you have found this exploration of honesty as interesting as I did. It’s fascinating how many different ways there are to think about honesty, and myriad answers to some of the most significant questions about honesty, such as
- What does it mean to be truly honest?
- Is it always wrong to be dishonest?
- Is it always right to be honest?
If you haven’t given these questions much thought before now, I encourage you to dive into the theories and philosophies on telling the truth. It makes for some great reading and some even better self-reflection!
What are your answers to these questions? Which philosophy do you think gets it right on honesty? How do you encourage honesty in your children? Let us know in the comments section!
Thanks for reading!
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If you wish for more, our Positive Psychology Toolkit© contains over 300 science-based positive psychology exercises, interventions, questionnaires and assessments for practitioners to use in their therapy, coaching or workplace.
- 1964 Election Study. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Inter-University Consortium for Political Research, University of Michigan.
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