I have been thinking lately of the insufficiency of words to accurately describe our characters. The problem with words is that they are definite - exacting in their intention and meaning. Yet, humans can never fully live up to the fullness of a definition; or, rather, we do not behave according to our adjectives 100% of the time. For example, no one is always kind or unceasingly funny. We intuitively understand this, even as we freely assign descriptions to one another, but it made me wonder about how we come to trust each other.
In particular, I wonder how we determine if someone is an honest person. Typically, we associate honesty with telling the truth, as in, an honest person will not steal, cheat, or provide misleading information. But, let's be (ha ha) honest, and admit that none of us tells the truth all the time. Aren't we all guilty of hiding (or not sharing) some of the facts, some of the time? Tweaking the story just a bit? Bending the rules to get our way?
So the question is: if I lie some of the time, then why should you trust me at any time? Do you judge my honesty based on the quantity of untruths I tell, or the quality (big or little issues) of them?
These are important questions within our interpersonal relationships but of course the issue exists on a macro level as well. How do we determine if we trust our teachers? Our policy makers? The clerk at the grocery store? It's rather incredible to realize that we function, as a society, based on the hope that everyone around us is telling the truth, at least most of the time. To point the finger more directly - I have a responsibility to be honest, not only with my community, but first and foremost with myself.
Which leads me to a slightly different definition of honesty. The apostle Paul, in response to his deep knowledge of (experience with) God, urges Christians to think of ourselves with sober judgment. Rather than considering ourselves better than others, or idolizing our way of doing things, or even obsessing over our own selves, we are, instead, to think soberly [seriously, sensibly, solemnly] about ourselves. When we do this, we acknowledge that we are not God; i.e., we are not in control of anything or over anyone. We admit our flaws, our finiteness, and our fallibility, yet we push forward in the power provided by Christ. In this sense, honesty is more closely associated with humility.
And I think it makes sense that you would instinctively trust a humble person. A person who refused to puff herself up or gloss over the messy parts but instead, admitted her mistakes and turned to Christ for help to change. A person who didn't show off but served; who didn't take but generously gave. An honest person who could -
Let Christ be her example in humility - think of herself the way that Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Even though he could have, he didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death. It was an incredibly humbling process.
Yeah, that's a guy worth trusting. I want to be like him!