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[Hankyung Essay] The Most Important Virtue in Life is Honesty

Young Bum Kwon, CEO & Founder of YoungLimWon Soft-Lab

[Hankyung Essay] The Most Important Virtue in Life is Honesty

1st. February 2024

Recently, there has been a lot of uproar concerning the importance of being honest in revealing the truth. Reflect on these words by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the author of <Don Quixote>: “Heaven must help honest people, as they are the finest of God’s creations.”

Being honest can sometimes result in short-term losses. Admitting faults honestly can be frightening. It takes courage to overcome this fear and act with integrity. By continually conquering oneself, small acts of bravery can accumulate and evolve into greater courage.

President Abraham Lincoln, known as ‘Honest Abe’ from a young age, is a prime example of this principle. He overcame numerous adversities, became president, and made courageous decisions to prevent the division of the United States. Despite significant opposition, he achieved the emancipation of slaves, thus enhancing the universal dignity of humanity.

Conversely, in line with the Korean saying ‘a needle thief becomes a cattle thief’, once you start lying, the lies tend to multiply. When dishonesty becomes a habit, the frequency of lies increases with age, which impedes the positive or constructive use of energy. Consequently, the likelihood of becoming unhappy increases. Therefore, it can be argued that one of the foremost duties of parents is to nurture honesty in their children.

Everyone makes mistakes or mishandles situations unintentionally at times. We grow by reflecting on these mistakes and seeking ways to improve. However, if you falsify reports to escape accountability, you begin to devote all your thoughts and energy to keeping the deception hidden.

Just as lying is harmful, making excuses is another form of dishonest behavior that should be rigorously avoided. In organizations that value results over processes, it’s common to succumb to the temptation to achieve the maximum effect with minimal effort. This often leads to blaming others for one’s failures and inflating one’s contributions to successes. Such unfair competition inevitably leads to the decline of the organization. Honesty is a key component of a desirable corporate culture and ethical management within an organization. Tolerating dishonest behavior in any team member does not merely affect the individual; it can spread to others and lead to more significant, disastrous outcomes.

The primary duty of those who manage an organization is to establish an honest organizational culture based on trust. From this foundation, a virtuous cycle of development can be achieved, promoting active communication, enhancing creative collaboration, and supporting the continuous growth of individuals.

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