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“If you are honest only because you should be honest then your honesty is corrupt.”

– Source Unknown

developing good character traits

As a child I thought, and was taught, that honesty is a simple matter. You tell the truth and it is a sin to lie. In life I discovered that honesty is neither simple or easy. I could write dozens of stories on my formative encounters with truthfulness and lying and include a few here on developing good character traits.

Personal Character Development

My commitment to telling the truth began because I lied a couple of times as a child and those events remained significant in my memory. One of the first times my parents left my older sister and I alone (we might have been 5 and 6), the two of us got into an argument. She pulled out the yardstick and said she was going to spank me. I grabbed the other end and we each tugged and pulled. The flimsy yardstick broke in two. Later, when my mother found the yardstick in pieces she confronted us. We held a united front, both of us insisting we had no idea how the yardstick got broken.

Developing Your Character

Then, in the 3rd grade a classmate left her lovely new doll on the school bus. I thought perhaps I could take it for myself, at least just to hold it. The consequences of my action never occurred to me. I was struggling with what I knew was wrong and coveting a pretty doll. At the last second, my classmate realized her loss, ran back down the aisle and snatched her doll from the seat, saving me the temptation to steal. I was old enough to be relieved.

It is from events such as these that we form our earliest ideas about honesty. My parents taught us well but the struggle belongs to the child. How we understand morality is formed within and affected by the environment in which we grow up. The behavior and beliefs of our parents and the perspectives we’re exposed to culturally, religiously, and socially make a difference. Within such a context, happiness also plays a role. For what are we rewarded with approval, satisfaction, and pleasure, all of which are powerful motivators.

Honesty as a Character Trait

Character Development

Honesty consists of both integrity and morality. Integrity says that our behavior is in alignment with itself from one situation to another whereas morality is the set of principles that distinguish right behavior from wrong.

Shortly before I graduated from college I recall a classmate bragging that he never went into a grocery without stealing something, however small. I was appalled and couldn’t figure why someone would do such a thing. I questioned him, trying to understand. It made no sense to me. I do not know where he is now nor what his trajectory in life has been. What I know is that real honesty is earned. It emerges from the personal internal struggle between honesty and dishonesty, truth and untruth.

Numerous studies have looked at cheating among college students and whether an honor code, signed or not, affects the extent of cheating. What these studies have corroborated is that the presence of an honor code doesn’t significantly change the amount of cheating. What makes a difference is whether students understand academic dishonesty and sign on to behave with honesty. Just being reminded of the moral issues reflected by their behavior entirely eliminated cheating in some studies, no signature required.

Honesty Character Traits

The student-cheating studies are interesting because they imply that when students have the opportunity to think about and consider the nature of cheating they opt for honesty. It turns out that neither the awareness of consequences should they be caught nor of disappointing their parents had any significant effect. These students were guided by an internal compass more than by the expectation that they should do what was desired by an outside authority.

To behave with honesty because we should, is an indication of thoughtlessness, of allowing someone or something outside ourselves to determine our behavior. It indicates not thinking deeply about our principles. Maturity is figuring out the principles we will live by for ourselves and living them consistently.

Truth as a Character Trait

qualities of honest people

My childhood religious education was filled with stories of the martyrdom of early Christians who refused to deny their God. Listening to the stories I knew I wasn’t a good Christian because I didn’t have that much courage. Courage lies at the heart of what it takes to be truthful. I was reminded of courage when I saw the news story of Faraz Hossain a young man, Muslim, who refused to leave the Bangladesh café seized by terrorists last week though he was given the opportunity. He would not abandon two friends, non-Muslims, and was slaughtered beside them.

“Martyrdom is the supreme moment of truth. [..] In the Jewish view, individual survival is not the highest value. Ultimately, truth is more important. [It] is the ultimate mitzvah, the most potent act because of its power to regenerate itself – to give birth in others to the awareness of its truth.”

Kabbalah and Consciousness, Chapter III

Allen Afterman

Truth Character Traits

If truth is more important than life then simple daily honesty serves it well. Thank God that most of us will never be faced with a life and death choice. Yet honesty in the small matters of life also has a ripple effect. Though it may not go forever, it can go a long way.


If you’re looking for spiritual healing in Scottsdale Arizona, reach out and contact Dr. Sandra Egli at Center of Intention to start your holistic journey. Call 480-582-3374 today!

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Meditation: Sandra Egli
Music: Torey Ronhovde

The wisdom of a thousand generations guides you today. Only listen. Without a sound their voices reverberate in your cells. Settle within and choose your path.

All of us come from strength, fortitude, perseverance. No matter how difficult their lives, our ancestors made it through and passed on life for the next generation. Over and over, until it came to you. The intelligence that guided them has also come to you.

To Thine own Self be true.

If I could present you with a single blessing, it would be the gift of Mindfulness. Awareness of yourself: body, emotions, and self-talk, all the time. Our immediate experience is the ultimate exploration that only grows richer with time. What we do or don't do, and the roots of our behavior, are accessible with the simple practice of noticing immediate experience. It is this practice that makes it possible to know and be true to ourselves.


Sandra's graceful way of listening & non-judgmental demeanor allowed me to open up effortlessly. I was certain, as I left her office, that I had received precisely the healing I needed.

Female client, age 44
Phoenix, Arizona