In recent months I have found myself lying or bending the truth to protect myself from negative repercussions. The main motivator for my lying - which I hate doing - is my own cowardice, i.e. the fear of people getting upset or turning against me if they know the truth, because the truth is socially unacceptable.
It is cowardice that made me pretend to colleagues in my voluntary jobs as well as a medical professional that I am still undergoing university study when I lucidly and voluntarily opted out. It is cowardice that has made me make up false reasons why I was unable to attend certain commitments. I have also made exaggerations to external parties for monetary reasons.
Lying does feel wrong in my soul in that I'm violating the right of others to know the truth. It is purely done out of fear of consequences and a psychological prediction that were I to tell the truth it would lead to discomfort for me and others. In that sense I am still very much in the prison of what people think and the actions they may take based on those thoughts.
What I have noticed, however, is lying itself has caused me to have to make more lies to cover the original lies. There is some truth in the statement that
"telling the truth affects the present. Telling lies affects the future"although telling the truth can also affect the future as well as the present depending on how people react to it. Is lying justified when it's done to avoid (perceived) harm such as friction with people whom I'm not comfortable to be myself with on account of possible prejudice?
Ultimately if they find out that I have been lying won't the repercussions of what they think of me be even more negative than if I'd told them the truth to start with? Is deceiving your enemies, such as the government, immoral when done for reasons of self-preservation?
As I wrote elsewhere (The Habit of Justification), to justify is to invent a law or right that is not in keeping with moral, natural law. Even self-preservation does not, in my view, justify immoral action but I do it regardless, accepting as I must whatever negative consequences this has on my future.
It was Kant I think who said lying to others (as opposed to oneself) is immoral because it devalues language as a vehicle for the expression of truth, and prevents others from making informed judgements and decisions, whether based on your person or not. Of course in contract law, misrepresentation is something that makes a contract voidable.
Anyway the effect of my lies have been to create a distance between myself and others and isolating me from people who are kind-hearted but not, I feel, in a position to understand where I'm coming from, and even though this is a supposition, this supposition is informed by both experience and gut instinct.
An example of this is when I'm asked 'What do you do for a living?'. This is a loaded question for someone like me who is out of work and claims on the State for his living. I could tell the truth but I know I would often be chastised and the object of disapproval which my psychology is too fragile to deal with in situ, depending on whom I'm talking to.
It does appear that lying creates negative consequences in Natural Law and should be avoided but can also help avoid bad consequence as well. It is fear of what other people think and the actions they may take based on those thoughts as well as, much more rarely, the motivation for gain (such as underplaying my relationship with someone to possibly have a relationship with another) that have ultimately made me lie in the past and in the present.
I must conclude that not only am I a coward but that in lying I am human, all too human. Yet in admitting that I'm a liar, I am in some way beginning to tell the truth.
Addendum - Perhaps lying is less immoral when done to avoid harm to self and is more immoral when done to do harm to others. Yet the distinction between the two is not as watertight as it may at first seem, as one can do harm to others in order to prevent harm to oneself.
And as a friend of mine pointed out, a system - such as Stalinism - that forces you to lie merely so as to stay alive is itself immoral. On a cruder note, another friend simply said
"Lying is justified because people are dicks."In other words, not everyone is deserving of the truth and there is no good reason to open yourself up to people who will predictably and necessarily use your truth-telling against you, either by judging you or for purposes of manipulation.