Society requires that honesty, in all its aspects, be treasured, protected and practiced. If people were not generally honest, agreements would often fall through, and we would not know what to expect from each other.

Alt text Honesty is the foundation of trust that makes social living possible.

The flourishing of human beings and societies requires that honesty, in all its aspects, be treasured, protected and practiced and threats to it are openly challenged. We often assume that there is a commitment to honesty and overlook the importance of honesty when things are going well.

The test of the depth and breadth of this quality is when things go badly. We see the necessity of this social virtue when a bridge collapses due to substandard and dishonest building practices, or when a lawyer, doctor or other professional falsifies client records. Without honesty, the principles of corruption, fraud and deception seed choices and behaviours that weaken social bonds.

Honesty has many dimensions. Honesty to oneself is a condition of honesty with others. Honest leaders believe in what they say to those who are influenced by them. Honesty goes beyond thoughts and words – actions matter. Honest and trustworthy people honour their promises and obligations.

The challenge is to ensure that we are creating a culture that rewards honesty and learns from failure (as opposed to penalising those who admit to making a mistake or changing their approach). This feeds in to the need to foster honest, respectful, and constructive national discussion and debate. Honesty isn’t just for our leaders. We also need to build greater honesty among individuals and institutions across Australia.

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