Honesty is the Best Policy Meaning
Definition: There are often practical and moral reasons to tell the truth; it is important to always tell the truth.
Origin of Honesty is the Best Policy
Many sources attribute the popularity of this expression to Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers.
However, the expression existed before he used it, and had existed since at least the 1500s. Some of the first examples in English are by the English politician Sir Edwin Sandys. In 1599, he wrote,
- Our grosse conceipts, who think honestie the best policie.
Examples of Honesty is the Best Policy
The dialogue below shows two friends talking about a new outfit that the man bought.
Giuseppe: May, check out my new suit!
May: Wow, it’s very white.
Giuseppe: Yeah, I wanted to be unique and stick out from the crowd. Do you think it is noticeable enough?
May: Yes, it’s certainly very noticeable.
Giuseppe: Well, what do you think of it? Do you love it, or is it too much?
May: Oh, errr… Yeah, I love it. It’s great. It looks amazing on you.
Giuseppe: Really? Are you sure it isn’t too much? What about the rhinestones?
May: The rhinestones make it even better.
Giuseppe: Ha! I caught you! I know this suit is hideous. I just was testing you to see if I could trust you to give me your honest opinion.
May: That’s not fair! I lied to protect your feelings, but you lied for the purpose of tricking me!
Giuseppe: Yeah, I guess that’s true. Maybe we should both be more honest.
May: Yeah. Honesty is the best policy.
In the dialogue below, a father and his daughter use the expression while talking about a mysterious mess in the house.
Rafal: Vesna, I found some vomit behind the couch. Would you know anything about that?
Vesna: Oh, ummm, yes. That was me. I vomited behind the couch.
Rafal: Are you sure? Why would you do that and then not tell me?
Vesna: I was embarrassed about it.
Rafal: I don’t appreciate you lying to me, Vesna. I know your dog did it. I’m not angry, and I’m not going to make you get rid of the dog. Accidents happen. I just want you to go clean it up. I’m only mad that you lied. Remember, honesty is the best policy.
Vesna: Okay. Sorry!
This excerpt is from an article about a woman who goes on a date with two best friends at different times on the same night. She decides not to lie about it.
J. and I are enjoying dinner, talking about music and movies and siblings and jobs. And then, “Are you still talking to [B.]?”
Again, I decide honesty is the best policy. –LA Times
The second excerpt is about a former criminal who finds it difficult to get jobs due to his past.
- “I go to a lot of places and the first thing they ask is, do I have a criminal record,” said Donald, a well-muscled man sagging in a torn sofa. “Well, I tell them the truth because honesty is the best policy. But then I feel the vibes, like they don’t want anything to do with me.” –LA Times
The English proverb honesty is the best policy means it is better to tell the truth rather than to lie.