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Lying to Protect Your Feelings

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Tedd: You should have told me where you were going.
Grace: I didn't want you to worry.
Tedd: But you lied to me.
Grace: It's okay to lie to people if you think it's for their own good!
Tedd: Who gave you that idea?
Grace: [unhappily] Everyone I have ever known ever.

You find out something about yourself, or a loved one, and you can't bear to tell him/her the truth, feeling it would shatter that person's innocence and sanity. So you tell a little white lie to make the blow less powerful and all is well.


This may involve a Dark Secret (if the liar has a personal secret), as well as Locked Out of the Loop (if the person the liar is concerned about has a secret that not even that person knows) or Obviously Not Fine (if their attempt to hide what's going on is painfully obvious). Related to The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life; whenever you feel that revealing yourself to your loved one would create problems and break feelings, you'd have no choice but to lie and hide it as much as possible.

Compare Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You, The Power of Legacy, Motivational Lie, I Didn't Tell You Because You'd Be Unhappy, Let Them Die Happy, Empty Promise. Contrast Honesty Aesop.



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     Anime and Manga 
  • Danganronpa 3's Deadly Game is set up in such a way that Kirigiri's survival is contingent on murdering her best friend (or otherwise letting him die) within a given time limit or ending the game before then. Even when the latter appears impossible, being a heroic sort of person, she keeps this fact from him until death.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Roy Mustang lies to the Elric brothers about where Hughes is, saying he retired so they wouldn't blame themselves for his murder at the hands of Envy. This doesn't last long, as Maria accidentally spills the truth about his death to them later that day.
    • In one side story, the Elrics investigate an alchemist who reportedly managed to bring someone back from the dead with human transmutation, something thought (and later proven) impossible. They find the alchemist is blind from the procedure but was apparently successful in reviving the youngest daughter of a wealthy family who died in an accident, and they even meet the girl, who hasn't Came Back Wrong at all. A little digging reveals that it's all a lie. The alchemist actually failed utterly at bringing the family's daughter back, just like everyone else who tries to revive the dead, and succeeded only in being struck blind and creating a soulless, mutilated corpse. The family didn't have the heart to tell him to truth, lying that he had revived their daughter and hiring a child actor to pose as her so the alchemist would not cross the Despair Event Horizon.

    Comic Books 
  • This plays an important role in Through the Moon. Lujanne tells Callum that "White lies are illusions you build with your words to protect the hearts of those you love". He uses this to as a justification to convince Rayla to lie to Lujanne about the moon nexus. Later Rayla uses this as a justification to lie to Callum by agreeing to leave together in the morning, only to sneak off alone in the middle of the night.

     Fan Works 

  • Ghosts of the Past, sequel of Child of the Storm:
    • Harry once he figures out Hermione's heritage, and almost everyone else who knows/figures it out, though mainly at Wanda's behest (because she wants a clean break/to keep Hermione as far away from the burdens of being related to her as possible). When Hermione figures it out, the excrement hits the fan. Especially because while Harry regrets keeping secrets, he isn't exactly apologetic, either...
    • There's also the small matter of keeping Bucky's heritage from Ron, which is potentially a much bigger problem.


  • Joe Dirt has Brandy telling Joe that his parents died at the Grand Canyon when he was a kid. However, his parents contact him and turn out to be alive and they reveal that they left him behind on purpose. He finally breaks and as he's on the verge of suicide, Brandy comes in and tells him the truth: that she managed to find his parents, then lied when she found out how horrible they were.
  • In Saw, when Lawrence throws Adam his wallet to show him a family photo of him with his wife and daughter, Adam opens it up onto to see that it's been replaced with a picture Jigsaw put in there of the two of them, bound and gagged, assumedly for Lawrence to find and spur him into killing Adam to save them. Adam is visibly shaken, but tells Lawrence that the picture isn't there at all. Close to the climax of the film, when the two of them are having an heated argument, Adam finally throws Lawrence the picture Jigsaw took, and just as expected, he's completely horrified.
    Lawrence, nearly crying: Why didn't you show me this before?
    Adam: ...I couldn't. I'm sorry.
  • In Jurassic World, after the operation to use Owen's raptors to hunt and kill the Indominus Rex goes awry and many people are killed, Claire lies to her nephew Gray that everyone is fine when he asks if everybody is dead. Then Zack, Gray's big brother, calls out their aunt for lying, and Claire tries to justify it by saying that Gray is scared and lying when people are scared is okay.
  • In Mr. Holmes, Masada Umezaki's Anglophile father claimed that Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You and used a meeting with Holmes as an excuse. After WWII, Umezaki dupes the elderly Holmes into visiting Japan to demand the truth, and Holmes bluntly informs him that he'd never met Mr. Umezaki, and it must have been a cover for simply abandoning his family. Later, after Umezaki's mother dies and some realizations on Holmes' part, Holmes sends a letter claiming that he does remember Mr. Umezaki and that he did sterling service as a British agent. It's a fiction, but one that will help Umezaki.
    • Given a different twist in the original novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind. Again, Holmes has no memory of meeting Mr. Umezaki. However, he also realizes that he must have done so and that he has burned the volume of Watson's diaries that contains the record of this encounter, probably because that volume included politically sensitive information.
  • The Prestige: After Angier's wife drowns in a magic trick gone wrong, his assistant/mentor Cutter tries to comfort him by lying that drowning is a painless way to die (it is actually immensely painful). Angier believes it... which causes him to start mass-murdering his Expendable Clones by drowning them in tanks once they have outlived their usefulness, under the belief that it is merciful.

  • Star Trek Expanded Universe: In the novels, Captain John Harriman of the USS Enterprise-B had a strained relationship with his father, Admiral "Blackjack" Harriman, who was openly critical of him throughout his career. When the admiral was fatally injured in an accident, Enterprise-B's XO Demora Sulu asked him to give her a message to pass on to his son, offering him one last chance to mend their relationship. Instead, Blackjack continued to belittle him, saying his son was "weak, undisciplined, and ungrateful". Sulu then gives the admiral a "The Reason You Suck" Speech before he dies, and tells Cpt. Harriman that his father's last words were that he loved him and was proud of him.

     Live-Action Television 
  • On Blue Bloods, Frank identifies a newly-promoted officer's father as a cop-killer Henry'd been obsessed with catching for forty years, but lacks the evidence to convict. Reluctantly, he asks the man's son to wear a wire and get his father to confess the truth. The son gets the proof the prosecutor needs; arrested, the cop-killer asks Frank if he'd ordered his son to record him, and Frank falsely claims he had done so to ensure their relationship won't be damaged as badly.
  • In Star Trek: Discovery, Burnham takes it upon herself to lie to Saru while they are both trapped in the Mirror Universe. Saru had asked if Burnham had seen any Kelpiens aboard the ISS Shenzhou, which Burnham denies. In reality, Saru's people are slaves, and Burnham is forced to eat parts of a Kelpien in a later episode. Once the truth comes out, Burnham directly cites this trope.

  • The chorus of The Beatles' "Tell Me Why."
    Tell me why you cried,
    And why you lied to me.

     Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy XIII, Fang and Vanille mutually take on the burden of becoming Ragnarok, which will kill a lot of people. Then Fang gets amnesia and Vanille decides not to tell her about their Focus (or what Fang did to achieve it), because then only Vanille will be punished for not fulfilling it. Unfortunately, soon after, Fang's memories come back.
    Vanille: It wasn't fair! You had to do all the horrible stuff- and I didn't have to do anything-
    Fang: That is no reason to lie to me! You think that's what I want?! You, of all people-
  • Around the halfway point of Mass Effect: Andromeda the doctor watching over your character's sibling during his/her coma tells you that an AI found a way for you to communicate with each other via a mental link. Your options are:
  • Clam Man: Natalya, the landlord's young daughter, tries to calculate how much rent Clam Man has to pay now that her father has increased the rent. She guesses "thirteen rents," which is wrong.note  The player is then given a choice between telling her she's wrong, or saying she got it right. Choose the latter, and she'll respond with "Yay!"

  • In Blood Stain, Elliot rushes to take a flight to God-knows-where for a professor's lab assistant position, ditching her boyfriend's date and causing her older sister to become alarmed that she's missing. She can't exactly say that she's living in the same house as her boss. All of them thought there would be student dorms, so Elliot fabricates that as a lie to make the explanation easier. She can't state that the sudden rush was due to Dr. Stein's carelessness, so she claims that the position has tight deadlines. The gist of what actually happened is there, but the details have been smoothed out.

    Web Novel 
  • Can You Spare a Quarter?: Graham initially does not tell Jamie that the boy is hitting him during his nightmares when Graham tries to comfort him, instead claiming that he's hit the furniture when Jamie notices the bruises. He is concerned that Jamie might freak out if he were to know. Indeed, when Graham eventually tells Jamie the truth, the latter freaks out and runs away.

     Western Animation 
  • In the King of the Hill episode "Life: A Loser's Manual", it's revealed that Hank and Peggy lied to Luanne about her father working on an oil rig so they can spare her feelings. Really, he has a nasty drug addiction and was in jail all this time.
  • In the Futurama episode "Leela's Homeworld", it's revealed that Leela is a sewer mutant whose parents abandoned her on the surface so that she could pass as an alien and be spared the shame of being a mutant.


Video Example(s):


That Voice

BoJack attempts to be a better father figure to Hollyhock by giving her something to look forward to that he knows all too well is fake.

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