According to psychologists and leadership coaches, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, there are two types of liars. These two groups of people lie for different reasons with different intentions.
Some people lie out of fear or shame, believing that other people will not accept them if they told the truth about who they really are or what they really think. This is evident when certain religious groups who use fear and shame to motivate people could inadvertently pressure someone into lying.
The good news is, people who lie out of shame or fear can, in time, become better and learn to avoid lying. Nevertheless, until they do, it’s futile to build a relationship with them because you’re not interacting with the real them.
The second type of liar has less saving grace. These are the people who lie for selfish reasons. They are pathological liars who can’t help but deceive others even when it’s easier to be honest. Dr. Townsend and Dr. Cloud advised us to stay away from people like this. Although I believe that it’s not that common to find this kind of people, I do agree that we shouldn’t let these liars stay in our lives simply because we can’t depend on them for anything.
Yet, it makes me wonder if liars understand what the real consequences of their actions are. Many people seek the approval of others and believe that lying could achieve it. However, when we lie, we actually hurt the people we lie to and the relationship too. Everyone wants to feel appreciated, respected, and cared about but lying to them will only achieve the opposite.
You can’t build relationships with people who lie.
I’ve been fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough, depending on how you see it) to only ever had two friends who told lies to my face. Both did it to conceal the mistakes they have made. Ironically, I couldn’t tolerate their lies but I could certainly have forgiven their mistakes.
Sadly, none of them are in touch anymore and in both cases, that was the end of our relationship. It’s not easy having a relationship with someone who could look you in the eye and spill untruths from their lips. It’s not that you don’t care about them, it’s just that you can’t bring yourself to believe anything they say anymore once they have shattered your trust.
Here are what the lies of my two friends made me feel:
- I felt that I wasn’t important to that person when I was being lied to and that they didn’t respect me. It’s like they couldn’t care enough to tell me the truth and that made me feel bad about myself as if I didn’t deserve their honesty.
- I felt like an idiot when I discovered the extent of one of the lies. To be fair, that friend didn’t completely fabricate a story. Instead, she only told me part of the truth, almost as if testing the waters to see if she could get away with it. She basically made something sound better than it actually was but the whole thing backfired. When I eventually found out the truth, I felt like I was conned. I understand that she didn’t set out to make me feel bad but her lies made me feel like a fool who could easily be tricked.
- I felt sad and frankly, lonely. When I build a relationship with someone, I give them a piece of my heart. However, if they lie, it means that they have actually held back their hearts, making it hurt even more and it made me feel deserted.
- I felt like they only cared about themselves, especially when they didn’t come clean with their lies. Even after I’ve approached them with the issue, they didn’t confess right away. They were still, at that point, just being selfish and not thinking about me.
- I feel bad for them when I knew that my friends were readily able to cheat in a relationship. This is because when someone lies, they are like a thief who steals a social commodity without rightfully earning it. One of my friends lied her way into moral superiority yet ironically was achieving it by doing something immoral like lying.
- I couldn’t trust them anymore. Trust is perhaps the most important element in a relationship, even more than love. Trust is the foundation that love builds on and without it, there’s no genuine relationship there. Their lies killed my trust and although I really wanted to forgive them, and I think I kind of did, our interaction just wasn’t the same anymore. After catching them in their lies, there’s always an undercurrent of suspicion in me whenever they tell me something. I think both my friends did try to become more honest but once the trust was destroyed, it’s awfully hard to mend it.
What I didn’t feel after the lies, despite what my friends might have thought, was that I didn’t think less of them. However, I could see why my actions could be misinterpreted that way. I was indeed angry, but not because I thought my friends were bad people. When we get hurt by someone, we tend to stay away from them and that’s exactly what I did.
On the other hand, we should understand that people who lie might be going through a tough time themselves and it’s certainly not easy to admit to what they have done.
People who lie need help to change.
Someone who lies could easily get sucked into a downward spiral where they need to tell more lies to cover up old lies in order to protect themselves when they have been caught lying. They might attempt to manipulate by playing the victim card or distract you by directing your attention to someone else’s actions that could seem worse. It’s almost like they would avoid telling the truth at all cost, not realizing that more often than not, coming clean is perhaps the easiest way out in that situation.
The good news is, if you’ve lied to somebody who’s important to you and you sincerely want to continue your relationship without all the guilt, there’s still hope! There are many things that you can do and you must do them now.
Save your relationship by doing these things:
- Own up to your lies and I don’t mean just telling partial truths but take full responsibility for what you’ve done. You might want to take some time to think about it and perhaps write it out to help you process it better. Do resist the urge to lie in your confession even though lying might have been your go-to defense mechanism when you feel at risk, and you will feel it. But commit to your confession and you might find that people are actually kinder and more forgiving than you might think.
- Know that your relationship will change after your confession and learn to manage it. If that person doesn’t forgive you, understand that it’s their every right to do so and you’ll just have to move on. The ball is in their court now and they have to carry the burden of finding forgiveness within themselves. It’s not exactly fair to them but that’s how things are, unfortunately.
- Be willing to accept the consequences because you can’t get off scot-free for intentionally lying. It’s inevitable that people will trust you less than before but this is different from getting caught in a lie. If someone finds out on their own that you’ve been lying, it’s almost certain to cost you the entire relationship. However, if you own up to what you’ve done and apologize for it, you might experience a temporary setback in your relationship but it’s salvageable and will cost you less.
- Never lie again and be willing to face the outcome of being honest in everything. You’ll need to get used to the fact that you can’t control what other people think of you as much anymore without manipulating them, but that can be a good thing. At the end of the day, it’s really not that important to have everyone like or approve of you. As long as you’re not hurting anyone (and being lied to does hurt, believe me), you’d be surprised at what profound relationships you can build by letting people interact with the real you. This makes being honest absolutely worth it.