This is the next-to-last of a 13-part series on the Atheopagan Principles as I described them in my essay, “How I Became an Atheopagan”. To read the whole series, click on “Atheopagan Principles” in the tag cloud to the right.
The twelfth Atheopagan Principle reads, “I conduct myself with integrity in word and deed.”
This one sounds a bit stuffy. It’s an absolute statement and seems to imply that Atheopagans should be Boy and Girl Scouts. But I really don’t mean it that way.
Integrity is actually the path of least resistance for a lower-stress, higher-happiness life. Even though at times it forces you to stand up for something unpopular—or to acknowledge some way you’ve messed up—more often than not being true to your word and keeping your promises leads to better relationships and higher self-esteem. So it’s strictly a practical call: it’s a lot easier to be happy if you don’t have guilt over secrets or lies or ways you’ve violated your own values nagging at you. It’s just a better way to live.
It’s also a path to higher credibility in your social circles. If you’re known for honoring your commitments and telling the truth, others will value your opinion more, and will respect you more and know they can rely on you. That feels good, so it increases happiness.
Now, I’m not saying that blurting out unwelcome truths all the time is the way to go. Sometimes, discretion really is the better course, because it prevents people from being hurt or upset unnecessarily. There is such a thing as a “white lie”, particularly by omission.
But if considering whether to fudge the truth, ask yourself: Am I doing this to spare the other person, or to spare me? If the latter, it’s generally much better to just stand up, tell the truth and take your lumps.
We’re human: very few of us are able to do this 100% of the time (see Principle 13), but it becomes easier with practice and after awhile, it can feel almost good to fess up after a mess up. Better, certainly, than having an ugly secret waiting to go off like a grenade when it comes to light.
Behaving as an honorable, trustworthy person is a major contributor to being a happy person. Sometimes a bit more effort, but definitely worth it.