How honest are people, really ?

Couple of days back, I had a panic attack. It was one of those days when nothing really goes your way, and you get frustrated at every little thing, driving you nuts, without a moment’s peace. I know, you’ve been there. This time, it was my wallet that took me to the edge. I just couldn’t find it. Its not like I completely did not remember what happened last time I used it but I remembered every time I had to use cash/card the past few days, but just couldn’t exactly place when I would have misplaced it. Of course, I went online to check my cards and there were no new charges on it. That was a relief and I eventually did find it, where it was supposed to be, albeit hidden from cursory looks.

Anyway, besides that, I started thinking whether someone would actually return the wallet back to me, if I had accidentally left it in a restaurant or a bar. I mean, if someone really had access to two credit cards, and a little cash, how honest a man/woman would you have to be to return it to the owner ? I know I would, because I spend quite a bit of time, unfortunately, looking introspectively at myself, setting rules to live by and ideals to follow through. But generally, it does raise the question on how honest people really are ?

I know quite a few people (friends and acquaintances) who would’ve called me to return the wallet but maybe my views are skewed.. I wonder what’s the probability that some completely random person would do it, considering that the economy is going down the crapper, people getting laid off, and poverty levels rising.

I believe that every person is capable of doing the socially acceptable, most moral and immoral acts, all the same, given the circumstance but would I be too naive to believe that we are capable of compassion and honesty even under dire situations ? I hope not, because that reflects on how far we’ve actually evolved.

If you were patient enough to read through this, do share your thoughts…



  1. Vijay – Compassion and honesty to oneself is the motto of the unevolved man. Poverty/hunger can override notions of morality and honesty in a split second.

    Like to quote two things here. In the movie Pudhupettai Dhanush is admonished by his henchmen that he should not have ‘stolen & married’ the bride of another.And he retorts by asking, if you knew that you had the power to take something and be immune from repercussions, would you take it? This is one perspective of morality,a morality of power.

    The second is a story from Shaivaite literature, guess its Thirumandiram..not sure though and you might already know the story of the Fisherman. Who gives up the single gold fish that turns up in his net as an offering to Shiva, though he knows for certain his family would die of starvation that day. This is a honesty of the highest order.

    I would like to think the human race is capable of both these extremes and every gradation in between.

  2. Mahesh,

    Morality is a social construct, I agree but it is hopefully based and wound around the tao, Dharma. It does not matter if you are religious or an atheist. What you do is your Karma and then there is the way, Dharma. Would you do that which is righteous even when life turns sour ? I am as conceited and illusioned as the next person but I try to kill the beast within me and I fight hard at it. Of course, I’ve never been in absolute poverty either and I’m thankful for it. The subject of the post (wallet) is immaterial and it is just the cause that led me to this question, that has been dormant for so long..

    I liked the reference to the second story. But like I said, if there is a greater probability that people will do the right thing, then may be, we are making that slow evolution.

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