As I see it, there are a lot of different types of lies.
- Saying something that isn't true with the intent to deceive
- Saying something that is true but with the intent to deceive
- Dodging the question
- Unintentionally saying something that isn't true but you thought it was
- Saying something that isn't true but it used to be or you changed your mind
- Saying something that isn't true but you said is in a joking or sarcastic manner
I think I've listed them in roughly decreasing order of severity. The first one is essentially the definition of a lie, and the same category in which I'd lump fraud. Just about everyone would agree that that constitutes a lie. The second one isn't necessarily a lie—it's true, after all—but it was said with malicious intent. I think that the most important characteristic for whether or not I consider something a lie or not is that element of intended deception. I don't count it as a lie if there was no deception involved, and the more deception, the worse the lie.
Those are just my opinions. People differ a lot on what they consider lies, and how bad they rate each lie. My mom considers sarcasm lying, for example, and I don't.
When I was younger I used to lie more than I should. I was smart about it; I wouldn't lie when I knew I'd get caught. There often wasn't even a reason; I just did it for the fun of doing something wrong. Most of my lies were of the "technically true but intentionally devious" variety, but there were certainly plenty outright lies too. As I got older, I began to respect honesty as a human quality, and after a while I decided that lying wasn't really all that fun anymore, so I stopped doing it.
I mean, not entirely... but for the most part. I even keep honest on this blog. I embellish from time to time, filling in gaps in stories for which I can't remember all of the precise details, but my intent here is not to write fiction. If I were writing fiction, I'd write about a more interesting protagonist, that's for sure. Right now the situation in which I lie the most is when someone has invited me to some kind of social activity and I don't feel like going; I usually find myself making up some kind of lame excuse. I think I do it to spare the person's feelings, but I'm invited to far more things than I'm interested in participating in, and I should just be honest there too.
One thing that's tough for me is to reconcile privacy and secrecy with honesty. Despite sharing my every thought with the tiny corner of the internet that is mildly interested in them, I'm still a very introverted person. Staying honest on this blog helps me deal with that, but still I value my privacy. A couple of my friends are downright cryptic in their interactions with me, which I see as an instance of the same thing—preserving both honesty and secrets by maintaining privacy. It's strange, and it annoys the hell out of me, but I do the same thing myself.
Currently listening: Dennis McCarthy—The Nexus / A Christmas Hug