Difference Between Honesty and Truthfulness

Key Difference – Honesty vs Truthfulness

Although honesty and truthfulness are words that often overlap on one another, a key difference between the two can be pointed out. First let us define the two words. Honesty refers to the quality of being truthful and sincere whereas truthfulness refers to the quality of telling the truth. You will notice that being honest also includes being truthful. However, the key difference between honesty and truthfulness is that being truthfulness is only limited to telling the truth but being honest also includes the quality of being sincere. This is the key difference between the two words. Through this article let us examine the difference further.

What is Honesty?

As mentioned in the introduction, honesty emphasizes that the individual is not only truthful but also sincere in his words and actions. It is in this sense that we consider a person as an honest man or woman. In almost all societies, honesty in considered as one of the most sacred and valued virtues that a person can possess. Even in most religions, it is highlighted as a virtue.

From childhood itself parents encourage children to be honest. This includes not lying about daily activities such as who broke the window, who dropped the vase etc. As children become accustomed to telling the truth, this becomes a positive habit. However, in our society, most people often tend to lie to others for various reasons such as personal gain. This is clear not a good practice.

However, some point out that honesty is a completely subjective perspective, unlike truthfulness that is objective. According to this point of view, a person can be completely honest in what he says if he believes the lie to be true. For an example imagine at a murder trial, one witness says that he saw the man bending over the deceased person. Although he believes he was trying to kill the other person, in fact, he may have been trying to help the man. In such a situation, the individual is honest, but not truthful.

Key Difference - Honesty vs Truthfulness

What is Truthfulness?

Now let us pay attention to truthfulness. Truthfulness refers to telling or expressing the truth. In this sense, the truth is the factual reality. For something to be true, it has to be acknowledged as the truth by people. Being truthful is when an individual corresponds to this factual reality.

The difference between truthfulness and honesty emerge in this particular situation. As mentioned above truthfulness is corresponding to the facts. However, these facts can sometimes be misleading. A person can be truthful by expressing these facts, but he cannot become honest through this endeavor because the mere expression of truth is insufficient to be qualified as honesty.

Difference Between Honesty and Truthfulness

What is the difference between Honesty and Truthfulness?

Definitions of Honesty and Truthfulness:

Honesty: Honesty refers to the quality of being truthful and sincere.

Truthfulness: Truthfulness refers to the quality of telling the truth.

Characteristics of Honesty and Truthfulness:


Honesty: Honesty is being sincere in the expression of truth.

Truthfulness: Being truthful is corresponding to facts or reality.


Honesty: Honesty can sometimes be a subjective reality.

Truthfulness: Truthfulness is usually objective.


Image Courtesy:

1. Honest is the Best Poetry. — Gregory Alan Elliott By Alan Levine from Strawberry, United States (Honest is the Best Poetry  Uploaded by clusternote) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. “Statue of Truth” by Colin Rose – originally posted to Flickr as Truth. [CC BY 2.0] via Commons