Certified High-Performance coach, speaker, author, husband, adventurer, former commando-paratrooper, and tsunami survivor.

The Importance of Honesty and When Not to Tell the Truth


Everybody agrees on the importance of honesty, but are we always honest? Should we always be honest? The answer is more complicated than a “yes” or “no.” Honesty is the foundation of any meaningful relationship, including the one with yourself. But it can be a challenging virtue to practice in our daily lives. Sometimes we lie to ourselves, and sometimes we lie to others. Where is the line not to cross? In this article, you’ll define honesty and reflect on when you should tell the truth or not.

This article addresses one of the 10 Non-Negotiable Virtues of a True Man of Character, where you’ll learn the importance of creating a code of conduct so that you can always show up as your best. Make sure to read the article and explore all the 10 virtues to unleash your inner greatness!

What does honesty mean to you?

I like to define virtues so it gives more guidelines to live by them. The better you define terms, the easiest it is to act accordingly. I want to make a distinction between telling the truth and being honest. Telling the truth refers to accurately conveying information that is based on facts. Being honest means being sincere, authentic, and genuine in your words and actions. It means avoiding lying or misrepresenting facts and being open and transparent about your thoughts, feelings, and intentions.

The Importance of Honesty

The Importance of Honesty

Do I really have to explain that? How does that make you feel when you realize you are lied to? Horrible! Honesty may be uncomfortable (to tell and to hear), but it is the foundation of trust and integrity. Without it, relationships crumble, and individuals lose their sense of self. I can’t lie; I can’t live with the burden of lying (some people seem to be less bothered by that, though…).

Without honesty, there can be no true connection, no true understanding. And yet, society often teaches us to sugarcoat the truth, avoid confrontation, and keep up appearances. As a coach, I learned to embrace the discomfort of confronting people with the truth. It makes everybody sweat during those conversations, but there are usually life-changing. I realised the importance of honesty in improving yourself and your relationships.

Being honest with yourself

The first person you need to be honest with is YOU. And yes, sometimes it is easier to ignore how you feel. I agree that feelings are complex (read more about mastering your emotions here). You must learn to face the brutal facts and confront the hard truth about yourself and your life. Did you know that ignoring your feelings doesn’t make them go away? Duh! But wait, not that fast; what is one area of your life where you ignore facing the truth?

I know it is not fun to think about, but this is the first step to gaining awareness, growing in every area of life, and ultimately reaching mastery (learn about the four other steps here). It can be hard to confront your own truths and even harder to tell someone else the truth. But don’t underestimate the importance of honesty,because it is the only way to truly be yourself and get better.

You must be willing to take responsibility for your mistakes and have the courage to accept your shortcomings. Being honest is accepting that you are not perfect but keep doing your best. To be truthful is being open and transparent about your words, actions, and intentions. 

Being honest with others

When you are honest, you are authentic. When you are authentic, you are attractive (attractive to the right people!). Plus, you don’t have to live with the burden and anxiety of lying. A man of true character is real and authentic, speaks the truth, and encourages others to do the same. But should you always be honest?

Has your partner ever asked you, “do I look fat?” Oh yes, we can all relate to this dangerous question! Then what happened? Here is what happened: 

Suddenly you start sweating; your heart beats faster, your pupils dilate (= reaction of the human body when facing danger), then a few seconds later, you open your mouth and say, “no.” Then your mind goes, “was my tone right?”; “did I take too long to answer?”; “did I look up when answering?”; “I’m screwed; brace for impact.”

I am not questionning the importance of honesty in relationships, but sometimes we must be tactful and think twice before opening your mouth.

The Importance of Honesty and When Not To Tell the Truth

Should you always tell the truth? 

NO! We tend to think that we hold the truth about a lot of stuff, but whatever is true for you is not especially true for someone else. I think it is easy to be in shape, do you? Some people think it is easy to make money, do you? 

We should not confuse our believes and views about the world with universal truth. You should avoid sharing your truth if it is not based on fact, or at least express that it is your subjective opinion. Sometimes it is not appropriate or necessary to be completely honest.

You have to ask yourself if it is worth sharing your own truth. But you should always refrain from intentionally lying, misleading, manipulating, or deceiving others. Once again, it is not that simple; there are situations where you should deliberately keep the truth for yourself, even if the truth is based on facts.

The day I lied

A few years ago, I took one of my closest friends on a paragliding flight during a visit to Belgium. I had recently obtained my tandem license in Nepal and I was eager to share this incredible experience with my friend. 

We took off from a hill barely 100 meters high – a far cry from the heights of the Himalayas. I was confident after gaining much experience in Nepal but that was my first flight on that site.

A few seconds after taking off, I realized I had underestimated the wind conditions. The strong and gusty crosswinds caused the glider to move in all directions. Too late to turn back. We have a proverb in paragliding that says, “Better to be on the ground wishing you were in the sky than being in the sky wishing you were on the ground.” That day, I clearly wished I had stayed on the ground.

I was doing everything I could to keep the wing above our heads, but it was far from a pleasant experience. Sitting between my legs, my friend had no idea that I was struggling to keep us safe. We were barely 100 meters from the ground, and any sudden collapse of the wing could have resulted in a crash. He asked me if everything was normal, and I calmly lied, telling him everything was fine but that we would be landing sooner than expected (hopefully not that soon!). I was terrified! But at that moment, I knew that the truth would only have panicked him (people can have an unpredictable reaction when scared). I kept control of the glider and landed safely (a bit shaky, though), and my friend had a great experience. 

The importance of honesty is undeniable, but sometimes, it is better to keep certain truths to yourself to ensure safety and well-being.

The Importance of Honesty and When Not To Tell the Truth

Coaching conversation: open assessment on the importance of honesty

Here comes the hard part when I actually ask you to think about your behavior:


    • Where in your life are you not completely honest with yourself?

Don’t skip this question! I call this “a reality check “; it is as powerful as uncomfortable. Take a journal and write down what comes up for you.


    • In what ways do you feel you have been dishonest in the past, and how did it impact you and others?

We have all lied at least once in our life; properly assessing the consequences will help you learn from the past and reinforce your code of conduct for the future. 


    • When have you struggled with being honest, and what were the reasons for this struggle?

I remember seeing a friend cheating on his girlfriend at a party. I was so mad because his selfish behavior put me in a terrible position as his girlfriend was also a good friend of mine. It felt as if I had to choose one or the other. It was not my role, to tell the truth, but I could not intentionally lie in her face. In the end, I took a more subtle approach by making her reflect on her relationship and confronted my friend about being a piece of sh*t! 


    • What are the implications for the relationship and for yourself of not being honest?

I could have lost two friends or, worse, crossed my values. Usually, lying makes things worst. Man up, better have those thought conversations sooner than later.

On a more personal level, I found it hard to admit when I didn’t do what I said I would. It makes me feel like I have no integrity; the problem is that not telling the truth worsens that feeling and hurts my self-esteem. When you tell the truth, you take responsibility. I found an even better solution; I hold myself to the highest standards and keep my word so I am never in such a situation.


The truth is often uncomfortable; nevertheless, it is reality. Not confronting it doesn’t change what is:


    • How do you handle situations where the truth might be difficult or uncomfortable to share?

    • Where in your life are you backing off from having such a conversation?

    • What is in it for you by not saying anything? (Short-term vs. long-term)

    • What would change if you demonstrated courage? 


Honesty is a key component of a relationship because this is how you build trust:


    • How do you balance being honest with being tactful and considerate of others’ feelings?

  • How do you handle it when someone else is dishonest with you, and what steps do you take to repair the damage to the relationship?

The importance of honesty in a nutshell

It takes courage to be honest, but it pays off. Comfort doesn’t lead to greatness and personal growth. You must be willing to have tough conversations with the people in your life. There are situations where it may not be necessary or appropriate to always be completely honest. Except with yourself! Make a habit of confronting the hard truth; that’s the only way forward. Because we are good at lying to ourselves, I recommend you work with a coach who can cut your bullshit and help you face what you are ignoring. Your character is built every day. 

“Honesty has a power very few people can handle” – Steven Aitchison

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Download Chapter 1 of my new book: "The Illusion of Time"

After nearly dying in a tsunami, I dove deep into personal growth, trying to find answers to my questions. I promised myself to live every single day to the fullest and inspire others to do the same. But for that, I had to get better at life. In my book “The Illusion of Time,” I put together 11 lessons to not suck at life and make the most out of it.

Download Chapter 1 of my new book: "The Illusion of Time"

After nearly dying in a tsunami, I dove deep into personal growth, trying to find answers to my questions. I promised myself to live every single day to the fullest and inspire others to do the same. But for that, I had to get better at life. In my book “The Illusion of Time,” I put together 11 lessons to not suck at life and make the most out of it.

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