I read something interesting on Bryan's blog today. He and Derek were tossing around this idea and I thought I'd throw in my two cents.
You tell a lie and hurt someone in the process. This could be by gossipping, backbiting, or just plain old competition. I'm sure everyone would agree that this is bad.
You tell a lie to get ahead in some way. You get personal gain, and no one is hurt in the process. As an example of this one I'll share a story about one of my co-workers. Sometimes when I'd be kickin it in his office talking, one of his superiors would walk in and ask him if he'd started writing a report/doing and analysis/checking with another team member. Almost everytime he'd answer in the affirmative, making him look like a really good employee. I was always so impressed by how on top of everything he seemed to be, and once complimented him on this after his boss had left. He turned to me and laughed it off saying he hadn't even started and wouldn't do so for a week or two. He looked good to his boss, but in my eyes I couldn't trust the guy at all, or anything he said to me. This to me is bad...this lie means you have no integrity and your word means nothing.
So now the question is what if you lie, gain from it, don't hurt anyone in the process and no one finds out? Well, I guess this boils down to a question of conscience. And a question of nature vs nurture. I'll let you stew on that one.
You tell a lie to spare someone's feelings. This is gray area for me. This is a situation where the "end justifies the means" but makes me wonder...does it really? Sure, you've made someone feel better, but isn't thats a false sense of security you've instilled? It isn't reality and it isn't how you really feel. If we are to be guided by the strict rules of complete honesty...where even omission, misdirection, and half truths are considered to be lying shouldn't we tell it how it really is? Does sugar coating things just end up making things worse when the outer shell wears away and people are shocked to find the sour core of truth?
You tell a lie because you don't like the truth. This is the one that I've fallen into the most. I don't want people to know my faults. I don't want them to see my short comings, failures or frailties, so I'll tell a half truth to present a slightly different impression of myself. This probably isn't the best, because it isn't the truth, but is it really bad?