Why You Need to Be Honest in Thought and Action

‘There is no pillow as soft as a clear conscience.’
September 6, 2017

On the right side of the Pyramid of Success, below patience, there are four additional pieces of mortar: sincerity, honesty, reliability and integrity. These qualities encompass the genuineness, strength and impact of human character.

Related: 6 Essential Traits of Good Character

In his book Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, with Jay Carty, Coach Wooden defined honesty and its importance in the following manner:

“Honesty is doing the things that we know are right and not giving in to the temptation to do the things that we know are wrong. Honesty must occur at all times, in both thought and action. Honest people stay on the narrow way, regardless of the consequences. If we are honest, our integrity will not allow us to compromise—ever.

“A dishonest act is an attempt to deceive someone. It is possible to be so deceptive that we even deceive ourselves. We do this when we want to justify a lie because of circumstances or as payback when someone has been dishonest with us. Dishonesty—no matter the reason—destroys our credibility, ruins our reputation and costs us our self-respect.”

Under each piece of mortar on the Pyramid, in parentheses, there is some brief application advice for that mortar. In the original Pyramid under honesty, the application advice is “in all ways.” Later, Coach changed the application advice for honesty to “in thought and action.” Coach had an important motivation for the change. He wanted to make certain that we understand that honesty starts with not giving in to the temptation of dishonest thoughts, which can ultimately lead to dishonest actions.

Coach’s father, Joshua, taught him, “Never lie. Never cheat. Never steal.” He also taught him, “Be true to yourself.” Coach believed that honesty encompassed not only telling the truth but also always acting in accordance with your core values.

Coach described one of his core values this way: “Revenge is the weak pleasure of a little and narrow mind,” or, “Time spent getting even would be better spent trying to get ahead.”

In his book Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, Coach gave an example of when he felt he was dishonest: “When I was a high school coach, four of my five starters came down with measles and had to miss a game. The opposing coach ran up the score that night. I was not happy and got revenge. In striking back, I wasn’t true to my values and I later apologized for my actions.”

Coach felt that by not “being true to himself” he was not being honest.

Coach characterized the challenge of being truly honest all the time this way: “The greatest conquest of man is the conquering of himself.”

He also reminded us that honesty has a great reward: “There is no pillow as soft as a clear conscience.” 

Related: Why You Need Poise to Perform to Your Potential​

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