Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the divine qualities will also be acquired. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, ‘The Advent of Divine Justice’)
In this passage ‘Abu’l-Baha tells us that being truthful is the only way experience progress and success in every realm. He tells us that it is the base on which all divine qualities (virtues) are built upon, and if you have truthfulness, you will also have every other quality the Diving sees as good and wholesome. It’s an interesting thought to entertain: that if we have truthfulness, we can have all other qualities that are divine in nature and just. On the surface, to most (including myself) this doesn’t really make much sense. After all, if I’m truthful, how does that make me brave? Courageous? Clean? But if we dive a little deeper, it starts to make sense. To truly understand what you are and what you can be when you’re truthful, you have to look at what you’re not when you’re not telling the truth.
When you are trying to understand truthfulness as a base for other virtues instead of a single virtue by itself, it is helpful to pick a few virtues and connect it back to truthfulness. For instance, let’s take the following virtues: Courage, Loyalty, and Reliability. On their own, these three virtues are excellent to have and may not seem to have much to do with Truthfulness at all. But lets dig a little deeper.
Think about being courageous. What images come to mind? Something along the lines of standing up for a worthy cause? Protecting loved ones against a threat? Does truthfulness fit into your image of courage? Let’s think about the act of lying, being un-truthful, for a moment. Say you’ve not been entirely honest with your mother about a grade you got in school, or you’ve not been honest with your friend about something someone said about her. In that moment, was lying an act of courage? Did you display any strength in persevering through fear in telling a lie? Telling the truth about something you’re uncomfortable with and being honest about something that scares you shows courage. It shows courage to be able to stand up to fear and unhealthy desires and take the path less traveled. But without being honest, none of these can come to light.
The same can be said for Loyalty. Loyalty is largely based on trust and honesty – two things which cannot be gained by being dishonest and untruthful. If for example you are in a committed relationship and stray from your partner. In the moment you’ve gone astray, can you say with any amount of confidence that you’ve been truthful to your partner? Have you been open and honest with them about who you’re spending time with (platonic and not)? Without truthfulness in all things, there can be no loyalty – no trust and no honesty.
In our last example lets take a look at Reliability. Being reliable involves integrity and, of course, loyalty. As we’ve already seen, without truthfulness, there can be no loyalty. Similarly, if, for example, your boss asks you to do several tasks for various projects and you accept these tasks knowing you don’t have the time for them, not being able to complete the accepted tasks makes you unreliable. Even with the best of intentions, when you think you can fix it before it becomes a problem, can you really say you were being truthful when you told your boss you could have the tasks done? In accepting tasks you knew you couldn’t complete, you have lost honesty which has in turn lost your reliability.
These are but three examples of how truth can fit into every single virtue. Without truth, your spirit cannot grow, and without truth, it will be nearly impossible to gain any other virtues in life.