What is more important: Honesty or Compassion?

A discussion of morality and values – asking the question, which is more important? Honesty or Compassion? Both are important and both can benefit your life here and now, but is one more important than the other?

by Jennifer Hancock


Jennifer Hancock transforms lives through Humanism – http://www.jen-hancock.com 


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6 thoughts on “What is more important: Honesty or Compassion?”

  1. Excellent thoughts Jennifer. I agree. There is a little bit of logical structure that can show easily that compassion is the more important virtue.

    Honesty is really about accuracy of information, which is a subset of the larger value of reason/rationality. It may also be a subset of 'rights'. Both of these values, reason and rights, are things we only find valuable because of the good they do for people. So, already, implied is this notion that we care about what is good for people. That pretty much proves that there is a broader, more foundational value out of which our admiration for rights, reason, honesty, and a whole host of other values spring – which it seems to me is compassion. Thanks for the video! 🙂

  2. Nice to see people arguing about this without using any outer authority like ancient scriptures.

    I would like to add a bit of complexity here:

    First of all I would make a distinction between inner and outer honesty. Depending on your other values, there are definitely situation where you need to lie (classic example: telling Nazi officials you don't hide Jews even if you do so).

    For inner honesty things are a bit different. I would argue that you need compassion to be able to be honest. If your honest about yourself (e.g. by becoming aware of your failures) and judgmental the same time it'll probably drive you crazy. This is also reflected by social conventions. It's ok to be honest to a good friend, even about unpleasant things, but not to a stranger.

    Lastly, from my understandings some religions (e.g. Buddhism) would argue that honesty leads you to "the truth" which is then compassion . This would make both connected in both directions.

    I'm quite interested about this relationship at the moment, does anyone have some literature about this topic she or he would recommend?

  3. Saibhu – you are of course correct. The thing about ethical systems is that they are made up of a variety of values that have to be weighed against each other to come up with a moral solution and sometimes an ideal moral solution isn't possible. Real morality is when you have to choose between the greater of two goods or the lesser of two evils.

    Anyway -the example you provide is an example of situational ethics. To be moral we have to subvert one thing we value in service to another value we think is even more important. This is why I place compassion higher than honesty in my ethics.

  4. Actually, what's needed is honest compassion. Honesty is indispensable if you wish to survive and survive happily. It leads to the greatest awareness within your abilities. It leads to the greatest knowledge of self and the relation of self to nature, nature to self. Compassion is needed if you wish the consequence of your living to bring little to no harm to other life. Living with honest compassion is a life positive approach, both for oneself and the other life upon which you depend and which depends upon you.

    The only one, in fact.

  5. Very beautiful and clear, Mr Naumadd. May I ask, do you belong to a religion, and if so, which?

    Heart's lotus or rose may blossom with honest compassion, compassionate honesty – blossom of Unity.

    Thank you to all above commentators on this essential question and path.

  6. I've never met a highly compassionate person that was very dishonest, the two are not the same but tied together with a rubber band. Lies hurt, that is not compassion.


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