spiral-staircaseWe all know that sin generally leads to lies and dishonesty, and lying begets more lying. We see it in our kids; we see it in ourselves. But just how does lying lead to more lying?

In What We Can’t Not Know (pages 210-212), J. Budziskewski lays out the “seven degrees of descent” on the downward staircase of dishonesty. I summarize his thoughts on each step below.

1. Sin.

“The greater our trespasses, the more we have to lie about. We lie about money, sex, and our children, because we sin about money, sex, and our children.”

2. Self-protection.

Lies need bodyguards. So for each lie, we add a protective ring of additional perjuries in order to shield ourselves from the consequences of our falsehood.

3. Habituation.

Lies become your habit. You lie even when you don’t need to, and when there’s no “good” reason for it. This is the point where you move from lying to being a liar.

4. Self-Deception

This is the stage where you lose track of truth. Now, you half-believe the lies you’ve told. It’s the only way your heart can relieve the guilty conscience of lying as much as you do.

5. Rationalization.

The weakness isn’t in you and your lies; it’s in truth itself. Everything is shades of gray. Nothing is absolute. Truth is simply “what we let each other get away with.”

6. Technique

Lying is now a craft. The best lies are those that are so great no one could possibly believe you would invent them. No one would believe you could tell such big lies or so many of them. Any whistleblower who calls you out on the lies must be the one lying, since it’s virtually impossible that you could be guilty of telling so many lies.

7. Duty Turns Upside-Down

“The moment lying is accepted instead of condemned, it has to be required. If it is just another way to win, then in refusing to lie for the cause or the company, you aren’t doing your job.”