Naturally, with any writing prompt, especially in trying to ascertain the meaning of the prompt, it would be good to speak with the teacher or instructor assigning it. Obtaining this information from the source will help guide your work successfully, especially if they are the ones assessing it. In my mind, the prompt is asking you to give an extended definition on the nature of earnestness. The prompt is asking you to construct situations or develop an analysis where being earnest, or honest, is a good thing. For example, if a friend relies on your counsel or advice in a time of crisis, it might be good to be directly honest or earnest with them. If you are needed to assist legal authorities in the apprehension of a dangerous criminal, it might be beneficial to all if you are trustworthy in what you have to say. If you are a doctor and a patient relies on your interpretation of certain test results, honesty and a sense of being earnest with them is essential. In the larger sense, can society effectively function if people do not interact with one another in an earnest manner? The second half of the prompt is asking you to construct some situations or develop an analysis as to why earnestness might not be such a great quality in difficult situations. This might be a bit more difficult because it is non- conventional and not traditional. Are there some situations where being earnest could be dangerous or not beneficial? Can you consider some situations where being completely and totally honest might not be the best path to pursue? As I said, this aspect will require you to engage in some thought. This is where I think that the essay is intending for you to go.