“On Honesty and Self-Deception”

Steffer, Lloyd

The Christian Century, vol. 104 (October 7, 1987)

pp. 403-405 (in a whole year of bound issues)

“Honesty is not much praised these days…Many of us would rather have our children be shrewd than honest…. Honesty now looks like a dubious virtue if not an actual vice. It is studied and examined as a strategy rather than as a hallmark of character. . . Once when Frederick II, an 18th century king of Prussia, went on an inspection tour of a Berlin prison, he was greeted with the cries of prisoners, who fell on their knees and protested their unjust imprisonment. While listening to these pleas of innocence, Frederick’s eye was caught by a solitary figure in the corner, a prisoner seemingly unconcerned with all the commotion. ‘Why are you here?’ Frederick asked him. ‘Armed robbery, your majesty.’ ‘Were you guilty?’ the king asked. ‘O yes, indeed, your Majesty. I entirely deserve my punishment.’ At that, Frederick summoned the jailer. ‘Release this guilty man at once,’ he said. ‘I will not have him kept in this prison where he will corrupt all the fine innocent people who occupy it.’”