Liars and Lying

by teresalaynebennett


When’s the last time someone lied to you? Five minutes ago? Yesterday? Two whole days ago?

Chances are, it wasn’t very long ago. In fact, it appears to me that as a society, we’re getting pretty used to being lied to. I find that unacceptable. 

How about you? Are you like me in that deep down inside, Honesty (and its sidekick, Integrity) are right up there at the top of your must-have list? Do you expect your business associates, family members, friends – virtually anyone with whom you have more than a cursory relationship – to be honest?

Do others call you “extreme,” “too tightly laced”? In this rare instance, I’m saying pay no attention. Stick to your principles!

Why? Because, as you well know, those who lie to you don’t lie once in a great while. They don’t lie only when they’re in a real fix. They don’t lie only when the stakes are high, and they have a lot to gain – or lose. No, lying is a habit for liars. I’ve learned, THE HARD WAY, that people who lie are people who lie. They may be telling the truth to you today or this minute. Or not.

I’ll bet you also know that this maybe-maybe-not is the crux of the problem. You never know where you stand with liars. Associating with a liar means you must always privately question whatever she says. And who wants to sign on for the job of continually checking the veracity of statements made by a friend, employee, co-worker, spouse? I sure don’t. Like you, I have enough things on my to-do list for each day; I don’t need to add, “verify Carla’s every statement” to the list.

Remember these two
observations about liars.

Honesty alert: These aren’t my own astute observations. I filched them from a retired FBI agent friend who’s a polygraph expert.

  • Liars don’t answer the question you asked. They answer, just not with an answer to the question you asked. Here’s an example. Question: “Were you in the 7-Eleven on Main Street last night at 1 a.m.?” Answer: “I didn’t need anything from the 7-Eleven.” It’s an answer, is it not? Yes, but it doesn’t answer the question posed.
  • Liars tell part of the truth but not all of it. Those in the know call it “editing.” The story they tell is truthful, but they carefully edit out the incriminating bits. Using the same example, let’s see how this would look. Question, “Did you rob the 7-Eleven on Main Street last night?” Answer: “You know, I think I did go to that 7-Eleven to get a bag of chips.” Now, what he isn’t telling is that after he picked up the bag of chips, he kindly asked the clerk for all the money in the till. Did he get a bag of chips? Yep. But the chip bit is only part of the truth.

So what’s my point? If you find yourself dealing with someone whom you catch telling you an untruth from time to time, know this: you’re catching about one in ten of his lies because he’s polished the above two tricks to perfection. What to do?

Run away!
You can’t change
a leopard’s spots.

But most of us don’t run away. Even when we know someone close to us is routinely lying, we still hang around and, worse, still believe them. Now why is that? My retired FBI friend says there are two reasons we keep hanging with liars and keep allowing them to be successful as liars.

  1. We hear what we want to hear.
  2. We believe what we want to believe.

It’s just too uncomfortable to believe those close to us would lie. It’s far easier to accept a lie than deal with its ramifications.

Now, let’s get
even more uncomfortable.

Are you the one who occasionally tells a little fib? Then you have a bigger problem than you know; you can’t run away because the problem is you. You’ve developed a habit of lying. Like all habits, you engage in it without even thinking. If you intend to hang with people you can trust, you have to be trustworthy. And trust me, the people you hang with now aren’t. They’re just like you. They tell the truth very poorly and only when it suits them.

In this case, you – and only you – as the leopard, can change your spots. Much as others might like to, they can’t change us. Only we can change us. Only I can change me. Only you can change you.

I told you I learned this lesson about liars the hard way. I allowed a person very close to me to lie to me for a very, very long time. Why? I was being deliberately naïve and didn’t want to believe he would lie to me. I wanted to give him a second chance because it was easier than confrontation and dealing with the issue. I finally stopped at the 300th second chance, more’s the pity.

I was duped in more ways than you can possibly imagine, and I’m assuming you have an abundantly active imagination. The most challenging lessons to learn are the ones we don’t want to learn, and I didn’t want to learn that this person would lie to me. I also didn’t want to learn that what I knew about him would apply to so many other people. Liars lie to people. Period. End of story. Nothing more to tell.

But maybe “nothing more to tell” doesn’t quite cut it for you. You’d like to know why people lie. I suppose there are as many reasons as there are people. Plenty of websites deal with this; check them out, if you like. I’ve decided it really doesn’t matter. Even if I know why people lie to me, they’ll still be lying to me; and that’s the part I find completely and totally unacceptable.

If, however, you’re the person doing the lying and you realize you’re sabotaging your own life, you definitely need to get answers to the why question. A visit to a professional counselor might be in order, and – good news – the answers might be easier to ferret out than you think.

Here’s a good example
of why it might be
easier than you think.

I once worked with a woman who was a pathological liar, if ever there was one. One day she told me a story about how things worked in her family when she was growing up which helped me understand why she lied. She had no idea she was lying right and left. Everyone else in the office did, though; her continual lying eventually got her fired. But the point here is that events in her childhood encouraged her to develop the habit of lying and as a thirty-something adult, lying was second nature for her.

How about you? What’s causing you to bend the truth? Find out, and find out fast. Even in today’s world of incredibly lax moral standards, liars don’t usually get too far. They get found out and fired. They get taken to court, convicted, and sent to the clink. They get discovered, slapped, and told by someone very dear to them that that someone never wants to see them again. A liar’s life is grim, perilous, and empty.

Speaking of slapping,
here are your slap-slap,
pay-attention tips for the day.

  • When you catch a person lying to you, be assured it isn’t a new phenomenon. Run like the wind!
  • If you’re the person who tells stories, find out why. Then retrain yourself to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Retraining can be done, and you’re the only person who can do it.

Personal confession: even though I know all this, I still find myself believing liars and all the while, beating myself up for not following my own advice! So how about sharing some of your methods for dealing with liars to help me stop this ridiculous practice of letting liars have their way with me?

© 2014 Teresa Layne Bennett

red box with white text: “The best lie is the truth poorly told.” – Anonymous