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Garrett Levelson wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am considering conversion to Catholicism and I have a brief, yet spiritually-urgent question that is weighing me down. I was wondering if someone could briefly speak to my troubled soul.

First, let me provide some background. One aspect of my sinful past which I am presently working to overcome is my history of, indeed, quite a pathological level of lying. I would lie so often that regularly it was:

  • for no reason
  • for no benefit
  • no importance/consequence (i.e. no harm and over the most trivial of matters) and
  • even came automatically without even any act of mental deliberation.

Of course, some serious lies were told as well . . . ones which tarnished reputations.

Aware of Catholic social teaching, I am currently in the process of making acts of reparation for the slanderous lies I have told - i.e. those lies which can plausibly be construed as tarnishing one's reputation. This a duty I acknowledge and am (painfully) trying to fulfil.

However, after reading Catechism of the Catholic Churchparagraph 2487 it appears that Church teaching is that all lies require reparation.

III. Offenses against Truth

2487 Every offense committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation, even if its author has been forgiven. When it is impossible publicly to make reparation for a wrong, it must be made secretly. If someone who has suffered harm cannot be directly compensated, he must be given moral satisfaction in the name of charity. This duty of reparation also concerns offenses against another's reputation. This reparation, moral and sometimes material, must be evaluated in terms of the extent of the damage inflicted. It obliges in conscience.

  • Does this mean I need to confess each individual lie I have ever told?

I must admit that my aversion to this is mainly social. I can't imagine the intense awkwardness that would ensue with telling everyone that I am a pathological liar, or admitting to some silly self-aggrandizing claims that have had no real impact on the world (telling people I have made a certain social achievement, etc). However, for these lies — lies which have hurt no one, my conscience does not sear me (as it does in the case of lies of slander).

  • So I reach out to ask what is the right and just course of action in this instance?

If I may be so bold as to extend my question slightly further, I have two more ambiguous cases that do sear my conscience and was wondering additionally if someone may be able to shed light on these cases.

  1. Cases technically of slander that may not be, in passing on such a low scale, to a person who I haven't seen in a year or so about someone that the person, I lied to, has never met. Something akin to saying, in passing, Oh yeah, my girlfriend is a nasty person.

      Is this real slander that requires a reparation?

    It has had no impact on either the victim's life or my associate — I doubt they ever even think about it.

      Do I need to contact my associate and say By the way John, two years ago I said my girlfriend was nasty, when in reality she's not?

  2. I put minor false experiences on my resume and obtained the job. Given the particular hiring process, I know that the false experience had no impact on the hiring choice.

      Nevertheless, must I admit to a technically false resume and thus be fired?

If you have time to answer my question, I cannot express my infinite gratitude for your assistance in these very important matters.

Thank you so much for your time and guidance.

Cheers.

Garrett

  { As I'm considering joining the faith, how do I handle my problem with a pathological level of lying? }

Bob replied:

Dear Garrett,

Making acts of reparation where someone's reputation has been seriously injured of course requires some effort to mend, but the other lies do not make sense to try to and deal with individually. I would take it to Confession (though you will have to wait until you are fully Catholic to receive absolution — or, if you haven't been baptized, wait for Baptism, as it will wipe the slate/your soul clean), and tell the priest that you have behaved like a pathological liar for years, of various degrees of seriousness and are trying to correct the ones that really hurt people.

I think he would tell you to let the others go and move forward with a serious purpose of amendment.

The resume thing is a matter of conscience. If the matter really has had no impact on your ability to execute the job and if it likely didn't prevent someone else from getting the job, then perhaps you can let it go. Given your pathology, it may not have been a mortal sin, but talk to your priest about it. God knows the deal and that is why there is Purgatory. I would resolve to work some overtime for nothing except the penance factor, but talk it through in Confession.

Rebooting your life is a penance, in and of itself, because you will live with some regrets, but at some point you have to let this past completely go and live in the present of God's grace. The devil will try and drag you back through the mud and tell you there is no hope for change and you can't get out of the hole you dug. Don't buy it. Jesus Christ is our way out, and what we have messed up so bad that we can't fix, He fixes for us. That is the Cross. Glory in it, thank God for it, and put that back in the devil's face when he tries to throw you off your game. You can grow in virtue one truth at a time.

The Catholic faith is wonderful and worth the effort. The Sacraments alone are the ordinary means of supernatural grace that Christ instituted. Baptism, Confession, Eucharist are just some of the blessings you need in order to walk the walk.

I will pray for you on your journey.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

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