This is simple and there are no exceptions. Tell a lie once and all of your truths become questionable. Early in my career I heard a very experienced attorney say “a half-truth equals a whole lie.” He was correct because anything not 100% true is a lie. Another benefit of telling the truth was summed up to me long ago by a friend who once said he never lies because it’s far easier to remember the truth than a lie.
I know some of you are thinking of situations where you may soften the truth to try not to hurt someone’s feelings. You are right that some situations are more nuanced than others, making a one-size fits all rule difficult. I am not speaking to those type of outlier situations, but to general day-to-day life in which your reputation is at stake.
Your honesty is part of your reputation. You may not be called out or caught every time you aren’t honest, but it will catch up with you. You may lose relationships or opportunities that you know you lost or that just don’t come your way because of your reputation.
Trust is important, and like your reputation, it’s earned. The difference is people will assume you are honest unless or until they believe you aren’t or hear you aren’t from people they trust.
Once trust is lost it will either take a long time to earn back or it can’t be earned back. Once that happens it negatively affects and taints relationships. People may still deal with you (mainly if they have to, i.e. family or in the workplace), but it won’t be the same. Even if it feels like it, a lack of trust permeates a relationship for into the future.
This goes back to “think before you speak.” Lying is a choice. You can call it embellishment or whatever you want, but if others think you stretch the truth, know you have just made your road forward harder.