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Quotations about Honesty



Are there any better kings than honest men? ~Marie Corelli (Mary Mills Mackay)


It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place. ~H. L. Mencken, A Little Book in C Major, 1916


I need to feel myself for once in my life freed from lies. ~Barbra Ring, Før kulden kommer, 1915, translated from the Norwegian by W. Emmé, Into the Dark, 1923


The most dangerous liars in the world, I have found, are not the people who lie to other people, but the people who lie to themselves. ~Sydney J. Harris, "Sincerity Can Be Dangerous," 1985


If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything. ~Mark Twain, 1894


Who lies for you will lie against you. ~Bosnian proverb


Grant us the truth in creed, in trade and state,
The truth in systems, methods, laws, innate,
Falsehoods, illusions, myths may sound more sweet,
Fallacious, false, framed but to dupe and cheat.
The weak may hug a lie and call it good,
Yet truth is right, when fully understood.
~Lydia Platt Richards


A half truth is a whole lie. ~Yiddish Proverb


Every lie is two lies — the lie we tell others and the lie we tell ourselves to justify it. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Those that think it permissible to tell white lies soon grow color-blind. ~Austin O'Malley


First, somebody told it,
Then the room wouldn't hold it,
So the busy tongues rolled it
      Till they got it outside;
When the crowd came across it,
And never once lost it,
But tossed it, and tossed it,
      Till it grew long and wide.
From a very small lie, Sir,
It grew deep and high, Sir,
Till it reached to the sky, Sir,
      And frightened the moon...
This lie brought forth others,
Dark sisters and brothers,
And fathers and mothers—
      A terrible crew;
And while headlong they hurried,
The people they flurried,
And troubled and worried,
      As lies always do...
~Mrs. M. A. Kidder, "What Became of a Lie," in Baldwin's Monthly, April 1875


All of us lie to ourselves, about one thing or another, far more than we lie to others. And it is when we are inextricably bound to these lies that we do the most harm, to ourselves and to all around us. Sincerity that thinks it is the sole possessor of the truth is a deadlier sin than hypocrisy, which knows better... It is when sincerity is divorced from rationality that we are led into the terrible wars and the revolutions that destroy more than they preserve or reform. ~Sydney J. Harris, "Sincerity Can Be Dangerous," 1985


Cowards are not invariably liars, but liars are invariably cowards. ~Minna Thomas Antrim


A liar who is not believed suffers the torments of an actor who is not applauded. ~Jacques Deval (1890–1972), Afin de vivre bel et bien, 1970


Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it. ~Mark Twain


[L]ies are like cockroaches — if you see one, there are others. ~Nelson DeMille, Night Fall, 2004, nelsondemille.net


One Lying Argument may wreck your Plea,
However Strong in Truth your Cause may be.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Argument," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924


Worse than telling a lie is spending the rest of your life staying true to a lie. ~Robert Brault, “Fun Thoughts on Marriage & Miscellaneous,” rbrault.blogspot.com, 2011


To tamper with truth is to deal in deceit. ~William Arthur Ward, Thoughts of a Christian Optimist, 1968


A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.
~William Blake (1757-1827), "Auguries of Innocence"


Falsehood is Poison — dangerous when placed
In Truth enough to hide the Bitter Taste.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Falsehood," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924


It's usually when a man speaks without thinking that he says what he thinks. ~The Philadelphia Record, 1901


Whether the succeeding generation is to be more virtuous than their predecessors I cannot say; but I am sure they will have more worldly wisdom, and enough, I hope, to know that honesty is the 1st chapter in the book of wisdom. ~Thomas Jefferson, 1819


I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It's awful. If I'm on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I'm going, I'm liable to say I'm going to the opera. It's terrible. ~J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, 1951


When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. ~Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner, 2003


...Prodigious liars must
Have audience of prodigal believers...
~Arthur Guiterman, "On the Decay of Lying," 1922


Alternative facts are not facts, they're falsehoods. ~Chuck Todd, 2017 January 22nd, to Kellyanne Conway, Meet the Press, NBC


Why do we not hear the truth? Because we don't speak it. ~Publilius Syrus, 1st century BCE, from the Latin by D. Lyman, 1856


We put no faith in aught but Scotch and rye,
Promotion schemes or advertising folders;
To Sinbad's tale we wouldn't hark a minute
Unless he whispered, "Sh! there's millions in it!"
~Arthur Guiterman, "On the Decay of Lying," 1922


Every good lie gets bad when told. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor


Occasionally he stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened. ~Winston Churchill, “ear-witness” quoting c.1936 about Stanley Baldwin, per Kay Halle’s Irrepressible Churchill: A Treasury of Winston Churchill’s Wit [quoteinvestigator.com]


I dare to be honest, and I fear no labour. ~Robert Burns, 1789


I didn't say he was a liar. I just said that when he tells the truth it has stretch marks. ~Robert Orben, 2400 Jokes to Brighten Your Speeches, 1984


If you want to ruin the truth, stretch it. ~Author unknown


Ha, ha! what a fool Honesty is! and Trust, his
sworn brother, a very simple gentleman!
~William Shakespeare, Winter's Tale, c.1610  [IV, 4, Autolycus]


I may be a liar, but at least I'm a gentleman. ~W. C. Fields


Always telling the truth is no doubt better than always lying, although equally pathological. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Truth is the diamond of the soul... Be truthful, and like the clear diamond shall your light shine. ~Ouina (Cora L. V. Scott Richmond), given through her Medium "Water Lily," "Diamond Drops," Ouina's Canoe, 1882


Whitewashing always comes off. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1906, George Horace Lorimer, editor


When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness' sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles 'em. ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960


A straightforward, open-hearted, and sincere answer, is better than all the silly, shuffling, insincere replies in the world. ~Religious Tract Society, London, Yes! and No!, 1835


Advertising a lie makes it bigger. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1906, George Horace Lorimer, editor


Honesty doesn't always pay, but dishonesty always costs. ~Michael Josephson, whatwillmatter.com


A lie is just the truth waiting to be itself. ~Terri Guillemets


Beware of the half-truth; you may have gotten hold of the wrong half. ~Author unknown, 1930s


When you assail truth, you may give loose reins to your tongue. ~Publilius Syrus, 1st century BCE, from the Latin by D. Lyman, 1856


A lie is truth, when told for one's safety. ~Publilius Syrus, 1st century BCE, from the Latin by D. Lyman, 1856


"I'm getting to be a professional liar," he thought to himself. ~Etta Merrick Graves, The Castle Builder, 1916


Truth is such a rare thing, it is delightful to tell it. ~Emily Dickinson


A little candor never leaves me. It is what protects me. ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), c.1968


Cherish the friend who tells you a harsh truth, wanting ten times more to tell you a loving lie. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it ain't so. ~Mark Twain, 1898


The highest compact we can make with our fellow, is, — 'Let there be truth between us two forevermore.' ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


Often the surest way to convey misinformation is to tell the strict truth. ~Mark Twain, Following the Equator


As important in a trusting relationship as the truths you share are the lies you never have to tell. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. ~Oscar Wilde, "The Critic as Artist"


Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


The truth needs so little rehearsal. ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams, 1990


Somewhere between the honest truth and the deceptive lie is the deceptive truth and the honest lie. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Marge, it takes two to lie — one to lie and one to listen. ~Homer Simpson (Matt Groening), The Simpsons, "Colonel Homer," 1992  [S3, E20]


Someday a computer will give a wrong answer to spare someone's feelings, and man will have invented artificial intelligence. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


HONESTY. The best policy after they catch you trying the others. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905


Yes, it is always the best policy to speak the truth — unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar. ~Jerome K. Jerome, 1892


Little Egbert was just the most truthfullest boy you can imagine. When teacher asked who had thrown the spitball Egbert was always the first to confess that Johnny Jones had. ~"Truthful Egbert, the Boy Who Could Not Tell a Lie: A Sunday School Story Without Any Moral Whatsoever," LIFE, 1922


Am I lying to you if I tell you the same lie I tell myself? ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


...and it often happens, that if a lie be believed only for an hour, it hath done its work... Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale has had its effect: like a man, who has thought of a good repartee, when the discourse has changed; or the company parted; or like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead. ~Jonathan Swift, 1710





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