Honesty is one of my strongest values. My parents raised me with a promise that they wouldn't ever lie to me, and I've approached almost every social interaction aspiring to the same standard.
I value honesty because it builds trust. If I can trust that people will only tell me things they believe to be true, then it's easier to rely on them.If they say they'll come to my party, then they’ll probably come to my party. If they say they’ll borrow my book and return it in two weeks, then I can assume I’ll have the book back in two weeks. If they tell me they love me and will be there for me, then I can really believe that.
In order to believe the things people say, I have to trust more than just their intent. The honesty I strive for is not only saying things I believe to be true, but being pretty confident that the things I'm saying really are true. To honestly promise someone I'll do something, I need to know myself and what I'm capable of following through on. To honestly tell someone I love them, I need to have awareness of how I'm feeling. Knowing one's internal state and knowing what one is capable of committing to are two (somewhat connected) very difficult skills, and I am realizing that part of why I've worked so much on them is to enable myself to be more reliably honest with people.
My definition of honesty doesn't only involve answering questions truthfully, but also offering information that prevents misunderstanding. This is much more blurry and relies somewhat on an understanding of what other people might be assuming. There are some things that are clear social norms -- for example, if someone offered to do my makeup before an event, I would probably assume that they have some experience, and if they had never done makeup before and did a horrible job then I would feel lied to even though they never explicitly said they had experience. So there are a lot of these situations where most people agree on what should be communicated, but often groups need to define their own social norms around what information is expected to be provided instead of explicitly asked for.
Part of why I've been thinking about honesty more recently is that I currently live with three four-year-olds. They are regularly asking "why?" and "what is that?" and it's been important to me to answer as honestly as I can in a way that I think they'll understand. I don't like when people share false information with me for their own amusement, and I wouldn't want kids to be confused like that either. My parents didn't lie to me about the tooth fairy or Santa Claus (I still got money and presents, though) and I would want to do the same with children I raise -- they have wonderful active imaginations that can bring lots of their own fantasy into their life. Honesty also comes up when threatening punishment for children's behavior. It's easy to over-threaten and then not follow through when they become scared or sad, but then it becomes random when punishments actually do happen and I think that would be confusing and challenging for most kids.
Honesty is a way that I show respect for people. It’s sometimes vulnerable and often grounding. It’s an important tool in my communication toolkit, and something that I seek in all of my close relationships.