Honest under all circumstances?

In my post ‘An innovative bribe’ on June 22, 2013, I had written about a customer who had the opportunity to be corrupt, but preferred to be clean.

Later, I was reminded of one incident in which I was the principal character.

I had completed answering the Hindi paper in my 7th Standard annual examination, except for the antonym of one word. I was lost in thought, searching for the answer. Suddenly, I realised the 9th Standard student seated next to me was tapping continuously on the desk. He was pointing at his question paper, on which he had written the word I was looking for. The invigilator was in another corner of the room and nobody else had seen what had happened. But, I did not write the answer provided by my senior. I left the question unanswered.

As we were walking out of the classroom after the examination, my senior asked me why I had thrown away 1 mark by not writing the answer he had provided. I replied that I was more concerned about my honesty than about that 1 mark.

Today, I have some questions about the way I had conducted myself:

1. Was my honesty more important to me than 1 mark because I was comfortably the topper of my class? What if I had had a couple of very close competitors? Would I have been tempted by that 1 extra mark?
2. Would my honesty have still been more important to me than 1 mark if there was much more at stake, for example if the examination was for a prestigious scholarship or for admission to a prestigious institution?
3. Would my honesty have still been more important to me than 1 mark if I had been a ‘weak’ student apprehending failure in the exam?
4. My senior was knowingly giving me the answer; if I had accepted it, it would obviously have been an act of cheating. What if I had seen the word accidentally on my senior’s or somebody else’s question paper or answer paper? Would I have treated that as cheating or as luck?
5. In all the above situations, what would I have done if more than 1 mark was involved, say 5 marks?

I’d like to believe that honesty would have been more important to me than anything else in all these situations. But, I cannot be 100 % certain. In fact, I don’t
think any human being can be 100 % sure that (s)he will be honest under all
circumstances at all times. To quote Henry Ward Beecher: “No man knows what he will do till the right temptation comes.

What do you think?

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10 thoughts on “Honest under all circumstances?

  1. Now that you’ve posed a question :”What do you think” Frankly I’ve nothing to comment on the honesty element. But I’ve got a counter-quote from the Bible – “There’s a time and place for everything; time to laugh and time to cry, time to be born and time to die, time to sow and time to reap…” I first heard on the radio at JFK funeral oration by Cardinal Cushing.
    In Hinduism also we believe that things don’t happen unless “the proper time comes.”
    It may be a out of context in your stand not to seek the 1 mark, possibly at another time stance could have been quite to the contrary, who can say?

  2. A promoter of corruption would say .. every man sells .. you should know his worth .. 🙂 I say .. if one can drop that 1 mark when least needed .. he is the one who can drop it when most needed too.. situations may differ .. attitude does not 🙂

    • I agree. Unfortunately, the reverse also works. A person may adopt the wrong way to get a large bounty, telling himself/herself that this is a one-time affair. However, the wrong way becomes a habit for smaller matters as well.

      • hehehe… but then who knows if they were among the ones who left that 1 mark in school which makes all the difference!! 🙂
        The one who can question others .. is ideally going to question himself as well .. be it before or after .. when you thought about the entire episode and came up with few logical situations which might have persuaded you .. that’s when you overcame all those probabilities .. because lest if this happens ever in future .. you will remind yourself .. what you did as a child .. what you questioned when you grew up and what you should do now .. again thats what i feel 🙂

  3. Appreciate your honesty, i know it can be very tempting, when we know that 1 mark is going to make a difference, i still feel deep within, honesty is the best policy all the time, at least we can be at peace with ourselves, rather than suffering from guilt. nice post, thanks for sharing !

  4. I would like to abide by the last line “Henry Ward Beecher: “No man knows what he will do till the right temptation comes.”
    While it’s easier said that we’ll follow honesty, I don’t think anyone is 100% honest. While I personally try to be honest, as much as I can, in my daily life, I know myself that I’m not 100% honest. If you, yourself, are following honesty as a rule, you’ll agree with my statement. Coz, there are lot of times when you lie just because you don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings by speaking the truth. And, then the quote from Gita comes alive “Jo sach kisi ko dukhi kare wo 100 jhuth se bhi zyada galat hai”.
    But yes, when no one’s feelings are involved, and we’re in such a predicament, then it brings out the true character of oneself.
    Good post!

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