A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Lauren and Rob Hudson: Positive messages for America’s youth — exceptionalism through honesty

Columns for families based on the book “It Can Be Done” @studentsleadusa

The importance of honesty as a foundation for one’s life cannot be overstated. We can’t be exceptional, effective, or truly happy without it. Honesty inspires trust. Trust affects every real relationship we will ever have – in the workplace, at home, and in the community. With trust, relationships grow closer. With distrust, relationships struggle and fail.

Although parents and family members may love us even when we become dishonest, it will be much harder to get along and be close without trust. Hiding things which could get us in trouble is, of course, a big form of dishonesty. Secrets and dishonesty usually come out, which hurts people a lot more than truthfully sharing bad news or problems upfront.

Truly dishonest people usually don’t end up with many friends. If they get friends, they don’t often keep them for long. Friends need to be able to trust one another. In business and in the workplace, dishonest people might seem “successful” for a while, but when their dishonesty comes out people won’t want to work with a person they can’t trust. It’s impossible to lead an exceptional life without close friends or work relationships.

Dishonest people also spend most of their time cleaning up their dishonest messes, which makes it hard for them to be successful at all, much less exceptional. With lies and concealment, if you want to avoid being caught, you will probably have to keep lying and concealing more and more things. It’s a downward spiral which wastes energy and ends up feeling like a living nightmare. As President Lincoln once said, “No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.”

A trustworthy person, on the other hand, can achieve. People want to work with and follow a trustworthy person. President Franklin D. Roosevelt described honesty as building confidence. “Confidence…thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations…Without them, it cannot live.” Honest leaders who develop trust and build great teams of people become truly exceptional.

How important is honesty to America’s exceptionalism? Dishonesty can slow our progress to a crawl. Dishonesty makes it hard to do business. Dishonesty leads to immoral political leaders. Most of all, it makes true common ground impossible, destroying the relationships needed to make a country work.

As much as a lack of trust can set us back as a nation, America has solid ways to deal with dishonesty. Unlike many countries, we have a nation of laws and freedoms which usually work very well together. For example, a businessperson who lies about what her products or services can do has likely violated the law. Even if a law does not apply, we have the freedom to buy from somebody else.

Honest and dishonest people have led America. In the last half-century, two American Presidents, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, faced removal from office because of dishonesty. The smartest people at the highest levels of society, in business and in politics, have been undone by their own dishonesty and poor character.

But again, America has ways of dealing with dishonesty. If a politician lies and we catch the lies early, we don’t have to elect them to office. If we fall for their lies and elect them, we can decide not to re-elect them. It’s up to us to become informed and to choose honest leaders we can trust. American exceptionalism depends on it.

Join us next week when we explore the common ground of marriage.

Frost Brown Todd LLC Member Rob Hudson is a Past Chair of the Northern Kentucky Chamber and a recipient of its Frontiersman Award. Co-author Lauren Hudson, 2018 Independent Author of the Year, is a Singletary Scholar at the University of Kentucky.

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