When I was a kid, most banks had names like “First National Bank & Trust.” I’ve noticed lately that banks don’t use the word “trust” anymore in their titles, and honesty in general seems rarer now than it used to be. And yet, more than ever before in history, the entire world’s economy and monetary systems are held together only by the underlying implicit agreement of honesty and trust. Most financial transactions are not even on paper, but are simply numbers in cyberspace, which promise to transfer “money” from here to there, and there to here. If dishonesty becomes the common way to live in our world, every economic system will crumble and there will be complete chaos.
That’s because the world’s systems of economy and trade are totally built on trust and the basic honesty of their users and participants. If you think about it, it’s obvious that cash, checks and credit cards are no more than symbols of these systems of trust – of promises to pay in value for goods and services received. They are only pieces of paper and plastic which have virtually no real value in themselves. The actual intrinsic value of a $100 dollar bill is the same as a $1 dollar bill: a printed piece of paper.
For most of written history, the world’s trade and monetary exchanges have used these tokens and symbols. Before that, people exchanged actual goods, like 4 chickens traded for 1 goat, or one year of labor for a cow, or whatever. This was cumbersome, so as trading expanded from villages to countries, to continents, and to the world, systems of trust developed using currencies or symbols of value instead of the physical objects of trade. That way, a landlord or a king could do trade in hundreds of cows, or thousands of soldiers, or property, or parcels of land, with only a written deed of promise, paper or metal currency, or other paper symbols.
What created and facilitated the growth of commerce and spread it around the world was a mutually agreed-upon system of trust. This system of course only worked with honest people who generally kept their promises. Now even those tangible paper symbols are disappearing. Most of the world’s trade, as well as yours and mine at the grocery store, are done by a vast system of credit which lives in virtual reality and flows through “the veins and arteries” of world-linked computers. We buy what we need and promise to pay, leaving our credit card number as our symbol of trust. This works brilliantly and is fast and very convenient. Until someone decides to steal our numbers and information, or even our “identity” to buy and spend in our name, so that someone else must pay for what they have received. This is the modern, high-tech way to steal, and it is weakening the credit systems of the world because (remember) without honesty the systems will not work.
Another growing type of dishonesty and abuse of trust occurs in the medical care field. Some people fake an injury after an auto accident or a minor injury on the job or in some public place, in the attempt to get either a large “settlement” payment, or a steady income for the rest of their lives by claiming a disability they do not really have. These all too common acts of dishonesty cause losses ultimately not to the credit companies, but to the individual honest merchants, and all the people wh pay insurance premiums. False claims cause insurance companies to raise their rates and cut back services and benefits for everyone. All of those costs are ultimately charged to the rest of us.
Any system devised by human beings can be cheated by human beings, if they choose to. At the base of the dishonest mind-set there is simply a conscious decision, made by an individual with free choice, that it’s okay to lie, to cheat, to steal, and to damage the lives of others, especially those they don’t know and probably will never know.
Many people actually take pride and pleasure in their ability to cheat and rob others. They express this in many ways, large and small. From robbing banks at gunpoint, to habitually running red lights - it's the same principle at work. Sadly, in their distorted view of life, they need this in order to feel powerful, in order to feel good about themselves. The motivating belief is “If I can’t be the best at anything, I’ll be the worst at something, but at least I will be somebody special.” This basic life-perspective goes very deep, and is the same one that motivates crimes and violence of every kind.
Many people still believe that they are not God’s sons or God's daughters, or that God loves other people more than them, and so, like angry children, they tell themselves they have the right to do bad things to express themselves. It might be “little things” like credit card fraud. Or it might be physically violent things like the rape and murder of children, and other unthinkable things we see every night on the ten o’clock news. But nobody is ever really comfortable doing what they know is wrong. Even the most troubled psychopaths usually seek punishment so that they can feel a little better about what they have done.
It all comes down to the individual question of “Who and What do I want to be?” And the recognition that we can be that, and in fact we are exactly what we have chosen to be, and we can be something else if we choose to. Whatever we are now, if we choose to change it, we can start changing it in the very next choice we make.
Watching the news, it does seem like the choices of cheating instead of honesty and violence instead of kindness are growing in our World. They are. But in this world, and even in this moment, spirituality and conscious purposeful life-choices are growing too. Every one of us has thousands of momentary choices we make every day, with which we create our circumstances and become who we are. And who we are in the world determines what the world will become.
Make no mistake about it – every choice counts. Even in the smallest things, when we choose patience instead of anger, we are beginning to tip the balance of the consciousness of the world. When we choose tolerance instead of resentment, we are tipping the balance. When we choose honesty, not because we have to, but because we want to, we are tipping the balance of the world’s consciousness, not just our own.
It all begins or ends with you. The control is in your hands. Honesty is not a small thing; it’s a big thing. You have to decide who and what you want to be, and move toward that. If you consciously work to practice honesty yourself even in small things, it affects everyone around you. What you believe in, what you do, and what you choose to be, influence the world’s consciousness even while you are unaware of it.
If we accept dishonesty as “the way of the world,” it will be. Likewise, the same universal law will guarantee that when enough of us have decided to reestablish honesty as the only acceptable standard and the way of our world, we will have honesty in our world.
What can you and I do to get back the honesty and trust? This seemed like a hard question to me, one that was much bigger than I am. So I went to the inner Counselor, the "still small voice" within, and asked the question again. This is the answer I was given:
What can we do to get back the honesty and trust?