"Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known."
When a character makes a conscious decision to be honest they Will Not Tell a Lie
This is different from Cannot Tell a Lie
in that nothing is forcing the character to be truthful besides their own will. This could be for different reasons. It could be a moral decision, or they could have an aversion to lying. Or they could get a noticeable tic
when under the stress of lying, or otherwise be bad at lying
so it defeats the purpose.
Either way, these are the characters who make an honest effort to be honest. This may cause them to become narratively associated with honesty as an ideal
As with Cannot Tell a Lie
, it is possible that a character who follows this trope will decide to speak in half-truths. A character who functions like this may do so because it's more fun, or because it's easier to manipulate people when you are telling the truth. They are able to tell half-truths and omit important information, allowing for False Reassurance
and even Malicious Slander
and acting as a sort of Technical Pacifist Consummate Liar
A character who isn't trying to get around his principle of honesty is a kind of deontologist
, but if he takes it a bit too far he might also be a Principles Zealot
Sometimes a sitcom plot, wherein a normally Consummate Liar
pledges to truth-telling. The plot nearly always will have him being accused of breaking his promise, even when he isn't
. Another frequent situation is the character's idea of being honest seeming to be unnecessarily hurtful, rather than simply telling the truth, "Does this make me look fat?" "Well, you want the truth? You look terrible
Contrast I Gave My Word
. Compare Villains Never Lie
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Anime and Manga
- Superman. In the 1979 film he expressly states that he never lies. Presumably if anyone ever thought to ask him outright, "What is your secret identity?" or "Are you Clark Kent?", he could just refuse to answer.
- An enterprising villain could just ask every Caucasian male citizen he/she meets "Are you Superman?". But that'd take a while, and just because he's not willing to lie doesn't mean that other people won't.
- In week 34 of the 52 series, some of Luthor's thugs kidnap a depowered Clark, drug him with truth serum, and ask him a question about Superman's secret identity. Specifically, they ask " Why is the man of steel masquerading as Supernova"? He cracks up.
- In Lucifer, the title character finds lies beneath him. As Mr. Easterman narrates, "He doesn't lie at all. He tells you the exact, literal truth. And he lets you find your own way to hell."
- The title character of Dan Dare absolutely refuses to lie, making him unusually moral even by 50s standards.
- Katherine "Kate" Kane was a Cadet Captain at West Point, highly regarded by both her fellow students and also her instructors and serving officers, when rumors begin to circulate that she is gay. The commanding officer of the facility calls her into his office, explains the situation, and gives her a choice: She can undergo a formal investigation, be revealed a homosexual and be kicked out of the academy, or she can say right now that the entire thing was a misunderstanding, a rumor, or even just an isolated incident and have the entire affair swept under the rug with no further questions. If she says the right thing she will still lose her status as Cadet Captain and will not graduate at the head of her class, but she will graduate, and will then go on to be the officer that she wants to be.
- The 1941 comedy Nothing But the Truth (based on a 1920 dramatization of a 1914 novel) stars Bob Hope as a stockbroker who bets $10,000 that he can go 24 hours without telling a single lie. Hilarity ensues as seemingly endless opportunities for lying present themselves.
- In Finding Neverland, James refuses to lie to Peter, who refuses to believe him since Peter believes that adults are never honest with children about the serious stuff.
- The time-displaced hero of Kate and Leopold considers it dishonorable to lie, even when the truth is likely to be disbelieved at best, and have him committed to a mental health facility at worst.
- In one joke, a priest helped a woman to smuggle a hair dryer by hiding it within his pants. When asked if he had anything to declare, he stated he had a wonderful instrument meant to be used by women that has never been used before.
- Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby— see the page quote. Although he may not be telling the exact truth, which isn't much better.
- Robert A. Heinlein:
- Star from Glory Road. She always tells the truth, but has no problem with misleading you. She also has no problem with letting you mislead yourself. Rufo even states this explicitly.
- Fair Witnesses in Stranger in a Strange Land, due to their conditioning as expert witnesses, will only tell the directly observed facts. This excludes subjective qualifiers, conjecture or analysis from their description. This gives them perfect eidetic memory and more legal credibility than audiovisual recordings, which can be forged. Jubal exemplifies this to Jill by calling his secretary over who is licensed as a Fair Witness and asking her what color the neighbor's house in the distance is. She responds "On this side it's white, boss."
- One of the obnoxious behaviors of the Martians in Fredric Brown's Martians, Go Home is spying on humans and blabbing their secrets. The fact that their stories always check out when someone tries to verify them just makes matters worse.
- The wizards in the Young Wizards series. When your job is reshaping reality with words, lying is a Bad Idea.
- Most of Piers Anthony's protagonists adhere to this rule at least to some degree.
- Wallace Wallace of No More Dead Dogs refuses to lie because his father was constantly telling whoppers when Wallace was a kid, which leads him to be incredibly blunt towards others. He does tell Rachel a white lie at the end.
- Lord Foul, the Big Bad of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant always seems to tell the truth. The Word Of God is that he thinks himself so superior to his enemies that he feels lying is beneath him. He is very good at saying things that are misleading, yet technically true, though.
- The Insequent will not tell a lie either.
- The Sithi from Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn not only don't lie but seem to have trouble grasping the concept of lying. They do tend to talk a lot without saying much when they don't want to give away the truth.
- Discworld's Carrot Ironfoundersson.
'What's gotten into them?'
'Hard to say, sir,' said Carrot. Vimes shot him a glance. Carrot had been raised by dwarfs. He also, if he could possibly avoid it, never told a lie.
'That isn't the same as I don't know, is it?' he said.
The captain [Carrot] looked awkward.
- Carrot's good at this. Paraphrased: "If you do not let us in...well, I have my orders. And I won't like carrying them out. If it's any consolation, I'll be very ashamed later. But I will follow them." "I have armed guards!" "Believe me, that will only make it easier for me to obey." His orders? Walk away if they don't let them in willingly.
- The Kencyr peoples in P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath series have a rigid honor code in which lying is one of the most serious offenses, for which a honorable death (suicide, or death in battle) is the only way to redeem oneself. This nature is known to others, as when Jame is called as a witness in a scene in God Stalk:
"You know, it's an odd thing about these people: they never lie. And they will fight to the death to uphold their word. You there by the door, you guards, can you say the same? Will you do battle for your honor?"
The guards looked at Jame and Marc, then at each other. "No, sir," said the bigger of the two flatly. "We weren't paid enough for that."
- The Palantiri of The Lord of the Rings might not lie, but they can still deceive. Denethor used a Palantir to see the ships of the Corsairs coming to besieged Minas Tirith during the War of the Ring. The sight broke his mind, since he didn't see that they were bearing Aragorn and a relief army. It's an open question how much Sauron could control what Denethor saw.
- Also, "the men of Rohan do not lie, and so are not easily deceived." (From The Two Towers; sadly this line did not make it into The Movie.)
- The guest in The Black Widowers story "Truth to Tell" by Isaac Asimov is a man who never lies, which ultimately supplies the solution to the mystery.
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Gods of Mars, Thuvan Dihn support John Carter's claims because
It is not a lie. This much have I learned of the Prince of Helium—he does not lie.
- Because how honest (or not) he has been will come back at him when he inevitably has to reveal major secrets, Merlin Athrawes in David Weber's Safehold series is extremely careful about this. He is not above using half-truths or explaining his abilities in terms his Safeholdian counterparts will more easily grasp, but he will do his utmost to avoid outright lying. A perfect example would be, when explaining the abilities granted by being a machine, he claims "to possess skills attributed to seijin, sages/warriors in legends. He allows people to call him seijin, but never actually claims the title for himself.
- Later on, it becomes a significant factor in the propaganda battle between the Empire and the Church. The Charisians have done their best to restrict their propaganda to provable facts, regardless of whether anyone will believe them or not. On at least two occasions (Ahnzhelyk's files regarding Church corruption and the murders of vicars within Zion itself), Charisian leadership chose not to publish anything because they only have copies and not the original evidence (in the case of the former) and because there's an off-chance of Clyntahn's pulling a fast one and can disprove their claims (in the case of the latter).
- Les Misérables: Sister Simplice is this trope to the extreme. Also, Inspector Javert.
- Seleneans and Zaldans in the Star Trek Novel Verse. The Seleneans are only a partial example - their truthful nature is more a result of their usual form of communication rather than for moral reasons. Zaldans, on the other hand, are fanatical in their Will Not Tell a Lie morality. This causes problems in one novel, A Singular Destiny. Evidence suggests that planet Zalda is refusing refugees; this isn’t true, but the faked records are convincing enough. The situation is made considerably worse in that their representative is completely outraged at the very idea of being Wrongly Accused - of being lied at and made to look like a liar himself - and storms off rather than defending himself.
- In C. S. Lewis's The Horse and His Boy, Shasta suggests to Corin various ways he could cover up the facts, but realizes it's impossible and says he will have to tell the truth. Corin scornfully says that of course he would have told the truth.
- In Robert E. Howard's The Shadow Kingdom Kull insults a Pict by claiming Picts never tell the truth, even though they follow this trope.
- The Marat from Codex Alera have little concept of lying, and no word for it. As such, being "deliberately mistaken" is an incredibly grave offense, and an accusation of it can lead to an honor duel.
- Michael from the Knight and Rogue Series goes out of his way to be honest, even if it gets him in insane amounts of often not deserved trouble. It probably helps that he's also a terrible liar anyway, so there's no real temptation to fib, but he tries to prevent Fisk from being dishonest as well.
- On the other hand, on the rare occasion when he does lie (such as to protect someone else), his usual honesty makes the lie much more convincing.
- In Albert Camus' existential novel The Stranger, the main character Meursault never ever tells a lie. He is not a textbook example, though, because this does not seem do be a conscious decision of his - it just never occurs to him that lying might help his situation.
Judge: Why did you kill the arab?
Meursault: ... Because of the sun!
- The titular Caine of The Acts Of Caine has a bit of a warped sense of honor, which has given him the well-deserved reputation that he would rather kill a man than lie to him. The last act of the first book hinges entirely on lies and deceit, which makes him very uncomfortable.
- In Poul Anderson's "Brave To Be A King", Manse listens to a story that is clearly Moses in the Bullrushes and so a hero legend — but from a Persian, and he knows the Persians are fanatical about this.
- In The Saga of Darren Shan, the vampaneze have a complex code of honour which, among other things, forbids them from lying. A vampaneze will never break this code, even when violently insane.
- In Wen Spencer's Tinker series, the elves are fanatical about this. Tinker has to be very careful about shading the truth and lying by implication around them, and Tommy at one point faces a serious dilemma because the elves will take the printed team list and his having taken bets as unbreakable.
- British statesman Lord Chesterfield recommends being this in Letters To His Son: "I really know nothing more criminal, more mean, and more ridiculous than lying." (letter XIV)
- Also, he often pointed out how a honest friend who doesn't hesitate telling you about your flaws is better than a flatterer.
Live Action TV
- Babylon 5:
- The Minbari like to claim this, but they make enough exceptions that the claim itself is a lie.
- In one episode, Sheridan is tortured by a professional. The interrogator says that he will not ever lie to Sheridan, and doesn't. Making any assumptions about things that he leaves unsaid or implied, however, would be very stupid.
- One of the Corpses of the Week on Bones was in a 'Radical Honesty Group' and prompted the whole Jeffersionian to adopt this trope for the episode, Hilarity Ensues.
- Loker on Lie to Me abides by "radical honesty," which means he not only always tells the truth, but he also blurts out whatever he's thinking, no matter how inappropriate that may be.
- On Necessary Roughness Nico informs Dani that he does not lie. While he is never shown on the show to lie, he uses a lot of euphemisms and does not really explain things fully when asked.
- Oz. Unit Manager Tim McManus is faced with telling what he knows about the death of prisoner Scott Ross or lying. Kareem Said asks him (under oath) if prison officer Diane Wittlesey shot Ross "with the intention of ending his life." So McManus says "No" (though he may have been answering very literally, as in: "Diane shot Ross with the intent to save my life"). Nevertheless the situation bothers McManus enough to have Diane transferred to another part of the prison, away from him.
Diane: "Look, can we just cut the shit? You are going to say you have a conscience, right? A moral code...seepage in your cerebral cortex and I am going to say, 'lie'. If you love me, if you ever loved me, then lie."
- Pushing Daisies has a team of lawyers who refuse to lie for religious reasons. It doesn't work very well.
- Maura Isles from Rizzoli And Isles. She will be evasive, however. When the sensitivity trainer asks her where Detective Rizzoli is, Maura replies that she is sure Rizzoli is "in the building", but that she "can't see her at the moment". Both of these statements are literally true as Rizzoli is hiding behind Maura's door at the time.
- Clark in Smallville. He usually changes the subject or says something true but irrelevant rather than give an outright lie. As in:
Perry White: This kid just picked up and threw a tractor!
Clark: You've been drinking too much, Mr. White.
- From Star Trek:
- Betazoids in Star Trek: The Next Generation seem to have this as a cultural trait. They are not averse to joking, however.
- Well, when your society can read minds, lying is sort of pointless, right?
- Also in The Next Generation, the android Data seems highly opposed to lying to the extent that it was (initially) practically a part of his programming (well, that, plus the fact that he's really bad at it). So much so that a good way to get information out of him was to construct your question into the form of an order, as Picard did during the episode "'Clues'". If you were at least one rank higher than him, then there was absolutely no way he could refuse to tell you. This usually worked (unless another previously given order overrode the new one.) It also meant that he was usually trusted without question when reporting on a particular situation - which means the times when he did lie, he usually got away with it.
- Similarly, Vulcans. On the other hand, Spock was known to "exaggerate", and even tell outright falsehoods, on numerous occasions. Then again, Spock is half human. Humans can and do lie frequently. And anyone who's hung around with Kirk a while is no stranger to cheating.
- Vulcans appear to be more of a race that claims to never lie, however they have been found lying on a number of occasions, making you wonder. After all, if they can lie, then they can lie about not lying.
- It's a running gag in the Expanded Universe that anyone who believes that Vulcans don't lie, doesn't know Vulcans. They prefer not to lie, but they will if they have to.
- Aptly displayed in the most recent movie with the two Spocks. After discussing why Old Spock sent Kirk to do the work instead of going to explain everything personally:
Young Spock: How did you persuade him to keep your secret?
Old Spock: He inferred that universe-ending paradoxes would ensue should he break his promise...
Young Spock: You lied?
Old Spock: Ah... I - I implied.
- Or the classic example that spawned all the others:
Saavik: You lied!
Spock: I exaggerated.
- Most Vulcans are logical beings so if lying would be the most logical course of action in the situation, they will. The fact that they're believed not to be capable of it makes them fairly good spies and infiltrators.
- As indeed they do. When they are not using code that involves exchanging a smaller time-unit for a larger one (Spock's exaggeration) or implying something untrue while avoiding outright stating it (Old Spock's implication).
- This quote comes to mind:
Seven: Commander, am I correct in assuming that Vulcans are incapable of lying?
Tuvok: We are capable of telling lies. However, I have never found it prudent or necessary to do so.
Seven: You have never lied?
Tuvok: Only under orders from a superior officer.
- Word Of God states that Ziyal in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a woman who never lied. It was one of the reasons why they decided to pair her up with Garak (someone who never tells the truth). They thought it would have an air of tragedy to put them together. In the show itself, if Ziyal didn't want to tell the truth, she'd say nothing at all or talk about other subjects.
- In Star Trek: Voyager Janeway claims this about Q. The SF Debris review responded with a clip show of times Q has blatantly lied, and that he's known as the God of Lies on one planet. Clearly, Janeway doesn't know Q very well.
- Married... with Children: In one Christmas Episode, Al and Griff were fired and spent the day trying other jobs. They regained their jobs by tricking their replacements into quitting. When Peggy asked Al how his day was, he said it started at the store and ended there.
- In GURPS the "self imposed mental disadvantage" Truthfulness is for characters that hate lying and are obvious when they try.
- The Fire-Touched of Werewolf: The Forsaken are bound to the rule "Never let a false statement lie". Since this would presumably include your own false statements...
- Bousille, the main character of the French-Canadian play Bousille et les justes. This trait leads him to his ultimate tragedy, as he is grappling between telling the truth and lying to protect the reputation of the family for which he is testifying. In the end, he tells the lie, but ultimately feels so guilty about himself that he hangs himself in the garage.
- The Avatar, in the Ultima series. At least, you play that way if you want to win.
- Mind you, s/he is not perfect, either. You lose Honesty-points if you try to claim "I never lie."
- The Ur-Quan Kzer-Za in Star Control 2. They claim that lying is for the weak, and the Ur-Quan are NOT weak.
- Ace Attorney: Byrne Faraday writes in Kay's 'promise journal' that she should not tell lies. When she actually does tell one it's only because she broke another promise (talking to a stranger) and is upset that he might find out. Of course he can't, being dead and all, and her lie nearly gets Gumshoe arrested for Faraday's murder. Later on she not only refuses to lie but runs her mouth off about being the Yatagarasu in front of Interpol agents actively looking for the Yatagarasu.
- Kirei Kotomine in Fate/stay night won't lie to you. He's very fond of False Reassurances and half truths though. 'A Servant is still hanging around from the last war? As the supervisor I cannot ignore that!' He's shocked because after telling Gilgamesh not to show himself, he did so anyway. So he doesn't ignore it, he scolds Gilgamesh for almost blowing his cover. As noted in Fate/hollow ataraxia it also applies to most Servants by default: Their pride doesn't let them.
- 343 Guilty spark from Halo might fall into this trope, or he might fall into Cannot Tell a Lie, depending on whether you believe he's gone rampant, or if he's just always been that way. Either way, nothing he ever says is untrue. He will withhold inconvenient facts if nobody asks about them, however.
- It's more likely that explaining the rings' purpose just doesn't occur to him. He simply takes it for granted that anybody attempting to activate the rings would know what they do.
- Turians in Mass Effect are described as such in the codex, as a matter of personal honor. A turian who commits a crime will do everything he can to avoid getting caught, but if flat-out asked, will freely admit it. Well, that is... MOST turians, obviously...
- It's not that they can't tell a lie - it's just that they tend to be really bad at it.
- The Great Mizuti of Baten Kaitos never lies nor tricks. Maybe only sometimes. Rarely. Once in a blue moon.
- Ishida Mitsunari from Sengoku Basara never lies, or indeed speaks in anything but Brutal Honesty, due to being too socially blunt. This is actually one of his few virtues, as he's a screaming whirlwind of bloody vengeance most of the time.
- This is Terumi's schtick in BlazBlue. Lying is, in fact, even a Berserk Button for him... Besides, what better way to Mind Rape somebody than Hannibal Lecture-ing them with Awful Truths and Brutal Honesty; like revealing to them that their desired rightful place in the world was stolen away by their best friend, who only exists because of causality-interference effects screwing with the time loops, or that they're really just a failed version of an Eldritch Abomination, which in turn is a failed version of a Person of Mass Destruction?
- Here's another interesting detail about him: He is an SNK Boss, but in his first appearance he claims that he isn't good at fighting. How did he manage to tell that Blatant Lie without breaking character? Well, aside from never telling lies, he is also very accomplished in telling Half Truths, or conveniently "forgetting" to include certain insignificant details that might prove vital to a person's continued existence. Also, he's the God of Trolling... i.e., he just said that while he doesn't consider himself good at fighting, well, he's still stronger than the majority of the cast, seeing that he's actually one of the Six Heroes and has tasted defeat by other heroes*. So, while he doesn't necessarily say the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, he never technically fibs and pretty much confesses without any provocation that he gave Ragna his Dark and Troubled Past For the Evulz.
- Though subverted that despite his claims of disliking lies and constantly claiming that the world is nothing but lies... he's not above lying if being honest would lead to his schemes and plans getting revealed too early. For instance, when he attempted to get rid of Makoto for knowing too much of his plan in Jin's story, his claim was merely 'to discipline Makoto'. The Hypocrite.
- From A Certain Pointof View one could say that he was being truthful then, too. Offing someone isn't a diciplinary session that would teach anyone a lesson they'd have much use for, but it sure as hell gets the point across that they shouldn't have done it, and will never do it again...
- Also in a subversion above all else, the definition of 'lies' in Terumi's mind far differs from what humans think to be lies. His definition of truth is only 'Despair', everything else are lies. Unfortunately for him, everyone knew that such claim is a big lie and only he thinks like that. So he may not tell a lie indeed... Just that his brand of lie that he won't tell.
- Villain Protagonist Kain from the Legacy of Kain series is a horrible person, but never directly lies. In a plot that includes half a dozen time travellers trying to trick each other into doing things that are against their own interests, this is a welcome though unexpected break. He still does his fair share of manipulating, but he never hides that he is only telling half the facts and hopes that sharing them will benefit his own goals. There is one point where he does lie (promising mercy to someone he fully intends to kill,) but he is immediately called out on it, and calmly acknowledges that his victim is correct.
- Kain is an interesting use of this trope in that it seems highly unlikely that his honesty comes from any moral qualms; he is as ruthless and selfish as they come. It seems more likely that he is simply too proud to lie, as shown when he calmly admits to personally killing Umah, even though it could have been against his interests to do so, and the person to whom he admitted it actually thought Kain had simply been unable to save her until Kain chose to correct him. Another possible reason is that the usual target of his manipulation (his "son" Raziel,) has the sort of personality that causes him to seek the truth of his own accord, so simply hinting at the time-spanning Gambit Pileup into which he is blundering is usually enough to get him on the path Kain wants.
- Durkon, the cleric in The Order of the Stick appears to refuse to lie in this strip. And technically, he doesn't.
Miko: Then what of the cell doors? How did they become unlocked?
Durkon: 'Twas a mechanical defect.
Roy: (whispering) "Mechanical defect"?
Durkon:(whispering) I dunno, I count "able to be picked by a rogue" as a pretty major defect, aye?
- Durkon is a dwarf cleric (and Lawful Good, which is almost redundant in that universe). The stereotypical dwarf is bluntly honest, brave, and lacking a sense of humor... and clerics are probably even more so.
- In the prequel book On The Origin Of PCs, Roy thought this of his father. In actuality, Roy's father lies a lot.
- Chargesdotcomdotbr character Fimose played the trope straight while trying to impress a girl. He told her he lived at a building worth $ 1.6mil (Brazilian currency). He actually lived at a rented apartment at a building with 40 apartments and each apartment was worth $ 40thousand. He also claimed to have studied at a school in Switzerland. "Switzerland" was the name of the street where the public school was. He claimed to have made an investment that might earn him $ 16mil. The so-called "investment" was buying a lottery ticket. He claimed to have a car collection. They were Hot Wheels toy cars. He claimed to have three Ferraris. There used to be four but his dog ate one. He claimed his Dad worked with oil products. Said Dad worked at a gas station. When asked if he worked at some world wide company, Fimose said his Dad worked with the Arabs. The station's owners are Arabs. He claimed his mother used to be an international model before her marriage. She posed naked to a painter from Argentina.
- Care Bears: Shreeky gave the impression she'd play the trope straight but it turned out to be a Bait and Switch moment. She did something that drove her Uncle No Heart enraged and told him she couldn't lie. Then she lied by pinning the blame on Mr. Beastley.
- The Simpsons: In "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment", there was a moment Marge asked Homer to tell where he was going. Homer said he'd not lie to her and then he left without saying anything else.
- Immanuel Kant is somewhat known for having stated that, because the categorical imperative requires following absolute moral rules in every situation, and not lying is one, it would even be morally wrong to lie to a murderer inquiring the location of an intended victim. Some interpreters have softened this in different ways, including at least by saying he meant it would merely be regrettable to have to do so or pointing out that that doesn't mean you have to tell the truth either.
- The doctrine of mental reservation is one of the reasons the word "jesuitical" has the connotations it does.
- Mark Twain once claimed that he Will Not Tell a Lie, which made him morally superior to George Washington, who merely couldn't.
- As told in her sister's memoirs, Nollie ten Boom. A veritable saint, like the rest of her family, but lacking the common sense to understand that some lies are acceptable when you are hiding people from the Nazis.