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Honesty & Sincerity from the 7 Bushido Virtues

Honesty & Sincerity - Makoto

Lying is dishonourable and cowardly. When we say that a task or action will be performed, it’s as good as done. Nothing prevents us completing that which we said we would do. We do not need to ‘give our word’ or ‘promise’

The above descriptor is an interpretation from the Samurai’s Bushido virtue of Honesty & Sincerity, let’s review what it means for us in modern times.

The basis of a moral society is founded upon the virtue of honesty, truthfulness, and sincerity. How we behave towards one another and the ongoing relationship we form is based upon trust, that trust can be immediately given and strengthened over time through behaviour that demonstrates we are honest and sincere. Equally that trust can be broken in an instant and is far more difficult to re-establish, if ever.

Our ancestors believed in a code of ethics or principles which we’ve been exploring these past few weeks. The Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius lived in the first century, 1,900 years years ago and wrote “If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it” simple and straightforward and yet profound. The Samurai held honesty and sincerity as one of the founding principles for how they lived their lives.

Bending the truth

There are degrees of honesty. Does having a range make it difficult to land on the right side? Sometimes we are dishonest by telling white lies to preserve feelings. We are more likely to do this for close relationships or people we care about. For instance, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell a ‘white lie’. Telling your children their early drawings, usually an unrecognisable scribble, looks just like mummy and daddy in the garden, or when asked by your partner – heals or wedges with this outfit? Or ‘what about this unshaved look? Should I grow a goatee? We’ve all been there and it’s just easier to bend it a little.

There are occasions when lying is justifiable, so it seems. The US Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions that deception can be used by law enforcement to infiltrate gangs and organised crime, with boundaries to effect prevention of crime.

Knowing, as we do, the difference between honesty and dishonesty how do we ensure our moral compass doesn’t’ have us go off-piste? For one thing having your own standards that you won’t deviate from has an advantage. When we act with Honesty and Sincerity, we can be considered reliable, trustworthy, dependable. Relationships take on a deeper meaning and become richer. Life is simpler as you no longer need to consider what you said to whom. Your character matures and in doing so you can identify more to your beliefs and virtues that you hold important and so it becomes circular as you never compromise them.

I truly believe honesty and sincerity starts with the standards we set for ourselves. We are each responsible for our own environment and how we turn up has a significant impact on those around us. Whether you realise it or not, you already set the example that others follow.

In my Martial Arts practice of karatedo we recite the Dojo Kun (training hall morals) at the end of each lesson. The second moral – “Makoto no michi o mamoru” we say ‘Be Faithful’ however it more accurately translates to ‘defend the path of truth and sincerity that you walk your whole life on’ In other words live your life honestly and with sincerity. This transcends the training hall and for me has become the bar I aspire towards.

In summary, as I consider how to live my own life with honesty and sincerity - knowing that in my younger years it wasn’t always my story. Here’s what I’ve learnt to be true:

· Be honest with yourself and check in on your ego

· Keep your word once given. Therefore, consider what you commit too

· Lead by example because we all have followers

· Keep the company of those who inspire you, whose virtues are similar

· Admit when you make mistakes, don’t cover them up. Learn and grow from them

· Treat everyone you meet with respect & curtesy, especially those vulnerable

· Be yourself. As they say – everyone else is taken!

Next week is my last week on the topic of the seven bushido virtues and it’s a fitting end as we review Duty & Loyalty.

It’s been a fascinating study to take principles written hundreds of years ago from the warrior class of Samurai. They are every bit as relevant today to live by as they were in medieval times. Striving to live our best lives means we are continually looking to improve our character. It’s not necessary to adopt some new and trendy concept to get behind. History provides us a learned experience of how-to live-in society in harmony with our fellow communities.

To your continued future health, success, and happiness.

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