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Honesty

Seth Godin started his podcast yesterday with the story of a woman who was at a meditation retreat. As she was sitting down and trying to meditate, she could constantly hear a man behind her making a clicking sound. After a while, she was so irritated that she decided to tell him off for being so inconsiderate and for bothering those around him. When she turned to do that, she noticed that it wasn't the man making the noise at all, but a radiator. And then, she learnt to live with it because, what's the point of shouting at a radiator when it doesn't know any better.

This reminded me of some thoughts I'd had on characteristics like courage and honesty.

The woman was only irritated when she thought that the man was making the clicking noise because she felt he had the option to not do so. Similarly, we only call someone's action honest or courageous when they had the option to act dishonestly or in a cowardly manner and despite the option, they acted in an honest or courageous manner.

It's the same reason we don't call someone who just tells you everything about their day honest. Even though technically they are, given that they are reporting everything that happened without hiding or misrepresenting anything. However, there was no option to be dishonest because nobody was seeking that information from them.

The characters we portray and perceive are all in comparison to our expectations. We always make evaluations with respect to a base line.

If you want to build up a certain characteristic in yourself, ask yourself where the baseline lies. 

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