From the Lokavagga Worlds section of the Dhammapada:
The person who tells a lie,
who transgresses in this one thing,
transcending concern for the world beyond:
there's no evil
he might not do.
When I first read this, I thought, "That seems pretty extreme." It's only a lie, right? What's the big deal? But when I reflected on it a little longer, I noticed that being truly virtuous takes not only discernment to know what is a virtuous action and what isn't, but also great determination and resolve. Many times, I may not know the right thing to do, but as long as I make the best choice possible at that time, and pursue it with resolve, I can't really regret it. But if I know what is right, and I don't have resolve, I can easily rationalize my behavior and do what is not right. Therefore, if I can't even keep myself from lying when I know it's not right, then how will I fare when it comes to something with greater perceived "benefit" to myself?
I went back into my recent past to recall times when I had lied and, reflecting on those times, it was almost as though allowing myself to lie loosened my mental state, making other nonvirtuous actions more likely, even days later. I would find my mind giving me rational arguments for things that required extra effort on my part to refute. I also reflected on times in which I stood firm and did not allow myself to lie, even if it would have made things easier. And amazingly, that had an equivalent effect over the subsequent days—being virtuous came more "naturally," with less effort.
Has anyone else noticed anything like this? Either similar or oppposite to my experiences?