Nelson Mandela - Political Entrepreneur
“This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as night the day; thou canst not then be false to any man”.
Honest thinking is the art of seeing beyond our indoctrinated thinking, prejudice or strong personal opinions in order to discover the truth of a matter. In the the business there is a world of half-truths, lies and deception. Then inside of us there can be varying levels of self-deception holding us back or distorting our view of things. To build any enterprise we must conquer our need to be right and gain an honest perspective.
For over a thousand years, millions of Chinese women were subjected to the very painful custom of foot binding. A mother would take a long piece of cloth and bind her young girl’s feet. All of the toes, except for the big toe, were bent up under the sole of their feet until they eventually snapped. If started too soon the girl could be crippled for life. Many where restricted to their bed because it was too painful to walk. Even when this physical process was complete, they could never walk very far from home for the rest of their lives. Binding usually began when the girl was four and took about five years to complete. This tradition was said to have started during the southern Tang dynasty (407-923) during the reign of Emperor Li Yu, who was one of China’s great romantic poets. Being more interested in wine, women, and song than matters of state, he did not stay on the throne for very long. He supposedly had one of his favorite wives bandage her feet to make them pointed in order for her to dance more beautifully. This caused great excitement in the court, and others followed suit. Foot-binding through the centuries spread from the court to the upper class, and in turn, to the majority of the population. Over time small feet became synonymous with beauty, so much so that it was difficult for a woman with large feet to find a husband. The perfect foot was, tin, small, pointed, crooked, perfumed, soft and symmetrical.
For Chinese men, small feet were extremely sensual. In these times a man would not see a woman’s naked feet until after marriage and then only during sex. Over the centuries, Dr Ko, a Taiwanese surgeon, says over 3 billion girls have experienced this cruel fetish.
Cultural indoctrination such as this can turn something abnormal into something socially acceptable. Bound by the bandages of our cultural and personal pride, hating to admit we where wrong, we can hang on to destructive ideas for many years before questioning them.
Without honesty our ability to think is bound or crippled. Honesty is a vital part of the reasoning process because it keeps us from being self-deceived, and helps us to remain open to new ideas. The definition of self-deception is, the process of denial or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument.
The result of dishonest thinking is living in denial, a self induced mental blindness. Honesty protects us from corrupted characteristics that blind our ability to reason with integrity.
At the level of our human spirit there is a kind of honesty box, we call conscience, giving us an intuitive knowledge of what is right and wrong, and a sense of responsibility to do what is right. This honesty box not only warns us of what is wrong, its the voice of good and honest character.
Characteristics such as: Courage, honesty, loyalty, patience, and humility all sit beneath the surface of our thinking, and like white blood cells, protect us from harmful unwanted invaders.
Honesty is character, and character is the foundation that under pins balanced healthy thinking. Albert Einstein said, “Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong, it is character.”
Good and bad character speak to us throughout our day, directing our behavior. Laziness has a voice telling us to take the path of least resistance, which is not always the best decision. The voice of honesty tells us to cut the crap and admit that we were wrong! Both good and corrupted character influences us more than we care to admit, or are even aware of. Good character helps us walk with balance and run with agility. Poor character cripples the thinking process. The bandages used to cripple literally millions of these beautiful little Chinese girls represent those characteristics that bind our thinking. Following are some examples of traits that sit beneath the surface, and kill or distort honest thinking.
Destructive indoctrination cripples our thinking due to the assumption that we have arrived at the truth, and no further thinking on the subject is required. Negative indoctrination carries an attitude of pride and superiority. Although we have become confident of certain conclusions, we must always remain open to our ideas being tested. Indoctrination stops us asking any further questions–we have made our judgement and that settles the matter.
As much as anything, indoctrination in the negative sense, lacks humility and fails to respect those who do not hold to our view. It is this attitude of, “Don’t question me, I’m right and you’re wrong!” This is something that has halted progress throughout history. The word indoctrination has both positive and negative connotations. In its widest sense it can refer to the teaching of the basics within education: the alphabet, the basic methodology of a profession, or the foundational principles of a subject, such as science.
In the fields of psychology and sociology the terms that describe aspects of indoctrination include: socialization, propaganda, manipulation and brain washing. In the education system, as in our personal lives, we need to distinguish between undesirable and acceptable indoctrination. Closing our mind to the point of no return shows no humility and is the reason many fail. Indoctrination clearly kept people from questioning this detestable tradition of foot binding for thousands of years.
In rejecting the manipulative bigoted attitudes of negative indoctrination, we can swing to the opposite mind-set of cynicism, which is an equally destructive and unhealthy way of thinking. Cynicism is the bandage of mistrust and a deep seated fear of being deceived. It is built on the assumption that most people are motivated by self-interest. Cynicism questions everyone and everything in search of ulterior motives.
There is something deeply appealing about cynicism because it lets us off the commitment hook. The voice of cynicism says, “Watch out, don’t be taken in.” So when an appeal for aid is made, we can justify doing nothing.
In his book, Seeing Through the Eyes of Cynicism, Dick Keyes suggests that “Cynicism promises a more sophisticated way of seeing. It promises to protect you from getting conned, disgraced or disillusioned.” He points out that it is “seeing through and unmasking positive appearances to reveal the more basic underlying motivations of greed, power, lust and selfishness. It says that every respectable public agenda has a hidden private agenda behind it that is less noble, flattering or moral.”1
There are many good reasons to be cynical; the politician who breaks their promise, the father who hurts his children, or the community leader that controls or manipulates people. Unhealthy cynicism places a harsh judgement on every human being – guilty!
Cynicism is a necessary protection against deception and is a part of thinking in red. Howeverthe problem with a cynical attitude is that it assumes that everyone is guilty until proven innocent. This is the opposite to a healthy concept of justice, where you are innocent until proven guilty. The outcome is a society where trust is never given an opportunity to grow. It is the assumption that everyone is selfish; an indoctrination of sorts. It is true that we have selfish motives to varying degrees; however, to lock down on the dark side of human nature will fail to draw out the best in people. Solomon's father, King David, taught his son that a wise man dose not sit in the seat of scoffers. An environment filled with toxic levels of pessimism, sarcasm, suspicion and skepticism, dose not foster healthy, balanced thinking.
Honesty has as much to do with pointing out the greatness we see in people, as it does not lying, or telling the truth about a persons poor character or behavior.
Wikipedia defines honesty as, The human quality of communicating and acting truthfully. Stating the facts as best one truly believes them to be. It includes both honesty to others, to oneself, and ones motives and inner reality. Other dictionary definitions talk about adherence to the facts, the refusal to lie or deceive, and about choosing not to be corrupted or false.
Honesty pushes aside prejudice, withholds judgement, buries pride and listens to all points of view. Honest people pursue the facts, evaluate the facts, test the facts, then judge the facts. Honesty gives us an accurate picture of reality. The voices of indoctrination and prejudice cry: “Don’t confuse me with the facts, I’ve made up my mind.” Honesty is the pursuit of truth, within and without, and begins with being honest with ourselves. King David in his prayer asked his Creator, to keep him from lying to myself.
It is interesting to note that most surveys to identify the kind of leaders we prefer, show that honesty is at the top of every list. 2 It is strange, but we often want from others a higher standard than we are willing to impose upon ourselves. Honesty in thinking is having the confidence to seek the input, feedback, and constructive criticism of others.
John Naisbitt in his book Mindset deals with eleven mindsets concerning seeing the future. He says, “My premier mindset is understanding how powerful it is not to have to be right.” 3 He points out that “People are culturally conditioned to have to be right. The parents are right, the teacher is right, the boss is right. Who is right over rules what is right.” He concludes, “Once you experience the power of not having to be right, you will feel like you are walking across open fields, the perspective wide and your feet free to take any turn.” This attitude, not taken to the extreme, is genuine humility.
Honesty must possess the humility that allows our thinking to be challenged. Mother Theresa said, “Honesty and transparency make you feel vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.”
Honest thinking is also foundational in gaining wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to research the facts (knowledge), interpret those facts (understanding), and then arrive at a conclusion or application (wisdom). Wisdom requires an honest interpretation and a fearless application of the facts. Honesty is thinking in red.
Honesty is the steel that runs through the back-bone of great thinkers. Honesty bravely admits, “I’m sorry I was wrong, you were right.” William Shakespeare wrote, “Honesty is the best policy. If I lose mine honor, I lose myself.”
Solomon teaches, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” 4 Honest thinking requires the help of others, who can fearlessly ask the probing questions, giving honest, sometimes brutal feedback. It is written, that Jesus was a man full of grace and truth. Truth without love or grace in the mix, can appear ruthless and even cruel. This is an important balance, because without the grace calculationwe would be forever discouraged. Wisdom is needed as to how much truth a person can take about their weaknesses at any given time. If others where to tell us the absolute truth, and nothing but the truth, our self-esteem may never recover. Truth or honesty reports the cold hard facts, grace is the shock-absorber communicating with wisdom and understanding, keeping the bigger picture of relationship in mind. Solomon taught that, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing…The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds persuasiveness to his lips.” 5 Honest conclusions are one thing, communicating them is another.
UNDER ALL THAT WE THINK, LIVES ALL THAT WE BELIEVE, LIKE THE ULTIMATE VEIL OF OUR SPIRITS.