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Honesty refers to a facet of moral character and denotes positive, virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness along with the absence of lying, cheating, or theft. Oxford English Dictionary.

“A virtue such as honesty or generosity is not just a tendency to do what is honest or generous, nor is it to be helpfully specified as a “desirable” or “morally valuable” character trait. It is, indeed a character trait — that is, a disposition which is well entrenched in its possessor, something that, as we say “goes all the way down”, unlike a habit such as being a tea-drinker — but the disposition in question, far from being a single track disposition to do honest actions, or even honest actions for certain reasons, is multi-track. It is concerned with many other actions as well, with emotions and emotional reactions, choices, values, desires, perceptions, attitudes, interests, expectations and sensibilities. To possess a virtue is to be a certain sort of person with a certain complex mindset. (Hence the extreme recklessness of attributing a virtue on the basis of a single action.)” See Virtue ethics SEP.

“Beautify your tongues, O people, with truthfulness, and adorn your souls with the ornament of honesty. Beware, O people, that ye deal not treacherously with any one. Be ye the trustees of God amongst His creatures, and the emblems of His generosity amidst His people. They that follow their lusts and corrupt inclinations, have erred and dissipated their efforts. They, indeed, are of the lost….(Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, sec. 136, p. 297. Compilation on Trustworthiness.

“O ye friends of God in His cities and His loved ones in His lands! This Wronged One enjoineth on you honesty and piety. Blessed the city that shineth by their light. Through them man is exalted, and the door of security is unlocked before the face of all creation. Happy the man that cleaveth fast unto them, and recognizeth their virtue, and woe betide him that denieth their station.” (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, rev. ed. (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1988), p. 23) Compilation on Trustworthiness

“Trustworthiness, wisdom and honesty are, of a truth, God’s beauteous adornments for His creatures. These fair garments are a befitting vesture for every temple. Happy are those that comprehend, and well is it with them that acquire such virtues.” (From a Tablet – translated from the Persian and Arabic). Compilation on Trustworthiness

“O army of God! Through the protection and help vouchsafed by the Blessed Beauty–may my life be a sacrifice to His loved ones–ye must conduct yourselves in such a manner that ye may stand out distinguished and brilliant as the sun among other souls. Should any one of you enter a city, he should become a centre of attraction by reason of his sincerity, his faithfulness and love, his honesty and fidelity, his truthfulness and loving-kindness towards all the peoples of the world, so that the people of that city may cry out and say: ‘This man is unquestionably a Bahá’í, for his manners, his behaviour, his conduct, his morals, his nature, and disposition reflect the attributes of the Bahá’ís.’ Not until ye attain this station can ye be said to have been faithful to the Covenant and Testament of God. For He hath, through irrefutable Texts, entered into a binding Covenant with us all, requiring us to act in accordance with His sacred instructions and counsels.” Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá [rev. ed.], (Haifa: Bahá’í World Centre, 1982), sec. 35, pp. 70-1). Compilation on Trustworthiness

“If a man were to perform every good work, yet fail in the least scruple to be entirely trustworthy and honest, his good works would become as dry tinder and his failure as a soul-consuming fire. If, on the other hand, he should fall short in all his affairs, yet act with trustworthiness and honesty, all his defects would ultimately be righted, all injuries remedied, and all infirmities healed. Our meaning is that, in the sight of God, trustworthiness is the bedrock of His Faith and the foundation of all virtues and perfections. A man deprived of this quality is destitute of everything. What shall faith and piety avail if trustworthiness be lacking? Of what consequence can they be?”

“What benefit or advantage can they confer? Wherefore ‘Abdu’l-Bahá counselleth the friends–nay, rather, fervently imploreth them–so vigilantly to guard the sanctity of the Cause of God and preserve their own dignity as individuals that all nations shall come to know and honour them for their trustworthiness and integrity. They can render no greater service than this today. To act otherwise would be to take an axe to the root of the Cause of God–we take refuge with God from this heinous transgression and pray that He will protect His loved ones from committing so flagrant a wrong.” (From a Tablet – translated from the Persian)

“You have written on the question of how the friends should proceed in their business dealings with one another. This is a question of the greatest importance and a matter that deserveth the liveliest concern. In relations of this kind, the friends of God should act with the utmost trustworthiness and integrity. To be remiss in this area would be to turn one’s face away from the counsels of the Blessed Beauty and the holy precepts of God. If a man in his own home doth not treat his relations and friends with entire trustworthiness and integrity, his dealings with the outside world–no matter how much trustworthiness and honesty he may bring to them–will prove barren and unproductive. First one should order one’s own domestic affairs, then attend to one’s business with the public. One should certainly not argue that the friends need not be treated with undue care, or that it is unnecessary for them to attach too great importance to the practice of trustworthiness in their dealings with one another, but that it is in their relations with strangers that correct behaviour is essential. Talk like this is sheer fantasy and will lead to detriment and loss. Blessed be the soul that shineth with the light of trustworthiness among the people and becometh a sign of perfection amidst all men.” (From a Tablet – translated from the Persian).

“Ye who are the sincere well-wishers of the state, who are the dutiful and compliant subjects of the government, should occupy yourselves in constant service. Anyone who entereth the employ of the government should show forth in all his deeds and actions the highest degree of rectitude and honesty, of temperance and self-discipline, of purity and sanctity, of justice and equity. If, God forbid, he should be guilty of the least breach of trust, or approach his duties in a slack or desultory fashion, or extort so much as a farthing from the populace, or seek to further his own selfish interests and personal gain–then it is certain that he shall be deprived of the outpourings of God’s grace.” (From a Tablet – translated from the Persian)

“In discharging the functions of the office to which thou hast been appointed, thy conduct and actions should attest to the highest standard of trustworthiness and honesty, to a degree of sincerity that is altogether above suspicion, and to an integrity that is immune to the promptings of self-interest. Thus shall all know that the Bahá’ís are the embodiments of probity, and the very essence of spotless virtue. If they accept office, their motive is to render service to the whole of humanity, not to seek their own self-interest; and their object is to vindicate the cause of truth, not to give themselves over to self-indulgence and base ingratitude.” (From a Tablet- translated from the Persian)

“If any of the friends should enter into the service of the government, they should make their occupation a means of drawing nearer to the divine Threshold: they should act with probity and uprightness, rigorously shun all forms of venality and corruption, and content themselves with the salaries they are receiving, taking pride, rather, in the degree of sagacity, competence and judgement that they can bring to their work. If a person content himself with a single loaf of bread, and perform his duties with as much justice and fair-mindedness as lieth within his power, he will be the prince of mortals, and the most praiseworthy of men. Noble and distinguished will he be, despite his empty purse! Pre-eminent will he rank among the free, although his garb be old and worn! For man, praise and glory reside in virtuous and noble qualities; honour and distinction in nearness to the divine Threshold. The world’s wealth is, by contrast, the stuff of illusion. [Note: Cf. Qur’an, 3:185 and 57:20] Those who lust after it are the followers of evil and, erelong, they shall be plunged into confusion and despair. Which is better–that a man should be thus, or that he should comport himself with consecration and sanctity of purpose and stand out conspicuously for his integrity, uprightness and honesty? Nay, such qualities are better than the riches of Korah, [Note: Name synonymous with great wealth, mentioned (in the form ‘Qar’un’) in the Qur’an, 28:76] and dearer than all the treasures of existence.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from a previous untranslated Tablet)

“If one of the friends … be appointed to a high administrative office, he should strive diligently to perform the duties committed to his charge with perfect honesty, integrity, sincerity, rectitude and uprightness. If, however, he abuse his position through corrupt or mercenary behaviour, he will be held in detestation at the Threshold of Grandeur and incur the wrath of the Abha Beauty–nay, he shall be forsaken by the one true God and all who adore Him. So far from acting thus, he should content himself with his salary and allowances, seek out the way of righteousness, and dedicate his life to the service of state and people. Such must be the conduct and bearing of the Bahá’ís. Whoso transgresseth these bounds shall fall at length into manifest loss.” (From a Tablet – translated from the Persian)

If it should happen that one of the friends be called upon to serve his country and people in some capacity, he should apply himself to his work with heart and soul, and discharge his duties with perfect honesty, trustworthiness and godliness.” (From a Tablet – translated from the Persian)

“The responsibilities of the members of the Spiritual Assemblies that are engaged in teaching the Cause of God in Eastern lands have been clearly laid down in the holy Texts. These bid them to work towards the improvement of morals and the spread of learning; to strive to eradicate ignorance and unenlightenment, eliminate prejudice, and reinforce the foundation of true faith in people’s hearts and minds; to seek to develop self-reliance and avoidance of blind imitation; to aim to enhance the efficient management of their affairs, and observe purity and refinement in all circumstances; to show their commitment to truthfulness and honesty, and their ability to conduct themselves with frankness, courage and resolution.” To LSAs of the East in the 1920s

“The people of Bahá, under the jurisdiction of whatsoever state or government they may be residing, should conduct themselves with honesty and sincerity, trustworthiness and rectitude. They should concern themselves with men’s hearts, and hold themselves aloof from the fluctuations and limitations of the contingent world. They are neither thirsty for prominence, nor acquisitive of power; they are neither adepts at dissimulation and hypocrisy, nor are they seekers after wealth and influence; they neither crave for the pomp and circumstance of high office, nor do they lust after the glory of titles and ranks. They are averse to affectation and ostentation, and shrink from the use of coercive force; they have closed their eyes to all but God, and set their hearts on the firm and incontrovertible promises of their Lord; they have severed the bonds of earthly expectations and attachments, and connected their lives to the One Peerless Beloved. Oblivious to themselves, they have occupied their energies in working towards the good of society; and, steadfastly adhering to the sound and wholesome principles of God’s Faith, they have turned their backs on the morbid imaginings, the incoherent theories, and pernicious ideas of the victims of caprice and folly. While vigilantly refusing to accept political posts, they should whole-heartedly welcome the chance to assume administrative positions; for the primary purpose of the people of Bahá is to advance the interests and promote the welfare of the nation, not to further the devious ends and designs of the profligate and shameless. Such is the method of the Bahá’ís; such is the conduct of all spiritually illumined souls; and aught else is manifest error.” February 1927 to the believers throughout the East – translated from the Persian)

“The permanence and stability achieved by any association, group or nation is a result of–and dependent upon–the soundness and worth of the principles upon which it bases the running of its affairs and the direction of its activities. The guiding principles of the Bahá’ís are: honesty, love, charity and trustworthiness; the setting of the common good above private interest; and the practice of godliness, virtue and moderation. Ultimately, then, their preservation and happiness are assured. Whatever misfortunes they may encounter, wrought by the wiles of the schemer and ill-wisher, shall all pass away like waves, and hardship shall be succeeded by joy. The friends are under the protection of the resistless power and inscrutable providence of God. There is no doubt that every blessed soul who brings his life into harmony with this all-swaying power shall give lustre to his works and win an ample recompense. The actions of those who choose to set themselves against it should provoke not antipathy on our part, but prayers for their guidance. Such was the way of the Bahá’ís in days gone by, and so must it be, now and for always.” (18 December 1925 to a National Spiritual Assembly – translated from the Persian)

“You brought up the question of showing forth honesty and trustworthiness when engaged in the service of the state. These are qualities that must distinguish all the activities of the friends, and the acquisition of which is a religious duty incumbent on every believer. That some of the leaders whom they serve may be unappreciative of their efforts, or fail correctly to value their services, should give no cause for surprise. The reason for such conduct is the remoteness of such men from the True Source of justice, equity and fair-mindedness. We should keep our vision centred on God, not on the doings of His creatures. Every spotless action, every sincere intent of ours will win the commendation of the True One, will be exalted and magnified by Him, and requited with a bounteous recompense.” (8 March 1948 – translated from the Persian)”

“f any one of you enters a city he must become the center of attraction because of the sincerity, faithfulness, love, honesty, fidelity, truthfulness and loving-kindness of his disposition and nature toward all the inhabitants of the world, that the people of the city may all cry out: “This person is unquestionably a Bahá’í; for his manners, his behavior, his conduct, his morals, his nature and his disposition are of the attributes of the Bahá’ís.” Until you do attain to this station, you have not fulfilled the Covenant and the Testament of God. For according to the irrefutable texts, He has taken from us a firm covenant that we may live and act in accord with the divine exhortations, commands and lordly teachings.” (Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith – Abdu’l-Bahá Section, p. 400)

Selected Bibliography on Further Reading

Graham, Bryan. 2002. “Baha’i Faith and economics: a review and synthesis.” Reason and Revelation: Studies in the Babi and Baha’i Religions. volume 13
Los Angeles: Kalimat Press.

(a) Reviewed Articles
Dahl, Gregory C. (1975). “Economics and the Bahá’í Teachings: An Overview;” World Order 10.1: 19-40.
Dahl, Gregory C. (1991) “Evolving toward a Bahá’í Economic System,” Journal of Bahá’í Studies 4.3: 1-15.
Fish, Mary. (1997). “Economic Prosperity: A Global Imperative,” Journal of Bahá’í Studies 7.3: 1-16.
Hatcher, William S. (1974/5). “Economics and Moral Values,” World Order 9.2: 14-27.
Huddleston, John. (1975). “The Economy of a World Commonwealth,” World Order 9.4: 37-43.
Huddleston, John. (1991). “Towards a World Economy,” Journal of Bahá’í Studies 3.3: 21-34.
Huddleston, John. (1996). “Principles of Economic Justice,” in Toward the Most Great Justice: Elements of Justice in the New World Order (C. Lerche, ed.). London: Bahá’í Publishing Trust: 137-152.
Mohtadi, Shahruz. (1996). “Economic Justice in a New World Order,” in Toward the Most Great Justice: Elements of Justice in the New World Order (C. Lerche, ed.). London: Bahá’í Publishing Trust: 153-170.
Sabetan, Farhad. (1997). “An Exploration into the Political Economy of Global Prosperity,” Journal of Bahá’í Studies 7.4: 43-68.
(b) Additional Bahá’í References
‘Abdu’l-Bahá. (1975). The Secret of Divine Civilization. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá. (1982). The Promulgation of Universal Peace. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá. (1985). Some Answered Questions. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá. (1995). Paris Talks: Addresses Given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (12th Ed.). London: Bahá’í Publishing Trust.
Badi’i, Hooshmand. (1993). The True Foundation of All Economics (A Compilation) 2nd rev. ed., 1996. Canada: Webcom.
Bahá’u’lláh. (1983). Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust.
Bahá’u’lláh. (1988). Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust.
Bahá’u’lláh. (1992). The Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Haifa: Bahá’í World Centre.
Bahá’u’lláh. (1993). Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust.
Shoghi Effendi. (1973) Directives From the Guardian. New Delhi: Bahá’í Publishing Trust.
Shoghi Effendi. (1974). The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust.
Shoghi Effendi. (1977). The Individual and Teaching. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust.

c) Non-Bahá’í References
Baran, Paul A. (1957). The Political Economy of Growth. New York: Monthly Review Press.
Barro, Robert. (1996). “Democracy and Growth,” Journal of Economic Growth 1.1: 1-27.
Bell, Daniel. (1996). The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. Rev. ed. New York: Basic Books.
Cassidy, John. (1996) “The Decline of Economics,” The New Yorker (December 2): 50-60.
Frank, Andre Gunder. (1969). “Mechanics of Imperialism,” Latin America: Underdevelopment or Revolution. New York: Monthly Review Press: 162-174.
Graham, Bryan S. (1997). “An Interview with Jeffrey Sachs,” Hemispheres: Tufts Journal of International Affairs. 19.1: 100-111.
Keynes, John M. (1936). The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. London: Macmillan.
Nyberg, S. (1997). “The Honest Society: Stability and Policy Considerations,” Journal of Public Economics 64.1: 83-99.
Perotti, Roberto. (1996). “Growth, Income Distribution and Democracy: What the Data Say,” Journal of Economic Growth 1.2: 149-187.
Rosenberg, Nathan and L.E. Birdzell. (1986). How the West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation of the Industrial World. New York: Basic Books, Inc.
Sachs, Jeffrey-D. and Andrew M. Warner. (1995). “Economic Reform and the Process of Global Integration,” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 1: 1-95.
Smith, Adam. (1776). The Wealth of Nations.
Smith, Adam. (1812). The Theory of Moral Sentiments. London: Cadell and Davies.
Teichgraeber, Richard F. (1986). ‘Free Trade’ and Moral Philosophy: Rethinking the Sources of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. Durham: Duke University Press.
The World Bank. (1997). World Development Report 1997: The State in a Changing World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mazar, Nina. “The Dishonesty of Honest People: A Theory of Self-Concept Maintenance.”
Nina Mazar
University of Toronto, 105 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5S3E6

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