Everybody I know has a different concept of honesty. Different Types and cultures approach honesty differently.
Many people I know in my home region in Northern Germany are pretty straight forward - we'll let you know what we think of you to your face. Unapologetically, even if it hurts. Anything else would be disrespectful and a waste of time. After all, it's not about our relationship, it's about the thing. Someone with a preference for Thinking might also put the task before the person, and speak in more direct, logic terms.
In other countries, conversations can be a lot more indirect. Speaking out in clear terms would offend or embarrass, to the point that even the answer "no" is uncommon and needs to be softened. Here, it's not about the thing, it's about the relationship. We are connected and want to nurture the relationship, so we'll both know to read between the lines and interpret what it is we can't say out loud. Someone with a preference for Feeling might also put the relationship before the task, and speak in more informing, values-based language.
Honesty can be a weapon, used to hurt, attack, and put others on the defensive.
And it's a shield we can hide behind, where we don't have to examine our feelings, admit our vulnerability, and show empathy to the other person.
We all know that guy who says he's happy to hang out, but doesn't want a serious relationship, and the girl who is surprised when the guy still doesn't change his mind after six months together. "Well, what do you want? I've always been honest!"
I think honesty shouldn't be an excuse, it's a state of mind. And it starts by being honest with yourself. Living aligned with your values, respecting the law, common sense, and being nice to people. You might still run a Stop sign or advise your friend to wear something more flattering for her body type. Most importantly, you're open to re-examining your past choices and seeing where you can do better in the future.
What does honesty mean to you?
Image by Patsy Hendrix, Flickr, Creative Commons License.