How to Love a Liar
Perspective you only get from betrayal
It’s happened to you.
It happens to everyone.
You have been lied to.
Do you remember the doubt as the person was talking? As you were listening to them speak, was your mind doing logical arithmetic to determine the probability of truth?
Do you remember how it felt when you knew for sure?
- that deep searing pain in your gut
- the trembling of your hands
- that golf-ball-sized lump appearing suddenly in your previously vacant throat
- the evaporation of all moisture inside your mouth as if you had done a shot of sand
- that drop in your body temperature as if your heart literally had stopped pumping ironically coupled with palpitations
- the veil of sadness and betrayal that fell over you
Did you love the person who lied to you?
Here’s the interesting thing I’ve learned over the last four decades of my life — the lies told by those that you love are the ones that also have the greatest impact on you. They are the lies that can smother you with bone-crushing pressure under the weight of their words. They are the lies that can consume all the oxygen in the room leaving you lightheaded and incapable of taking even one deep breath.
“It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.” ― William Blake
Love turns what was a lie into betrayal.
A few weeks ago at church, our pastor Father Marc talked about others’ suffering in the homily. He explained the only way to truly understand another person, the only way to really help them, is to share in their suffering. If even for a moment, feel the pain they are feeling or have felt. Look at the world through their eyes to see their perspective clouded by the burden of their pain.
The response to being lied to is undeniably anger first. It can be blended with a dose of sadness and painted in a shade of confusion, but almost always your first emotion felt is anger. We often feel like we are the only ones suffering at this time. We are the afflicted; we are the ones who are hurting, right?
“Betrayal is never easy to handle and there is no right way to accept it.” — Christine Feehan
Recently one of my three boys lied to me. It wasn’t the type of lie that happens in response to doing your homework or cleaning your room — although we’ve heard our fair share of these over the last two decades. This was a lie that read like a novel or the script for a play with milestones that occurred at specific days and times. There were appropriately-timed responses and details that rolled off the tongue reeking of what clearly had to be reality.
But it was all fiction.
This lie lived a life that did not span minutes, days or weeks. This lie had a lifespan and a story-line that existed for months. You may be sitting at the end of your seat. You may be wondering what the lie was. But I’m not going to share that here. You see, what the lie was is not what matters now. I’m not writing this now for the what — I’m writing it for the why.
The words in Father Marc’s homily that day made me realize that there is no appropriate way to feel when someone lies to you, especially someone you love, but perhaps there is an opportunity for us to understand the why.
We all have our coping mechanisms and ways to deal with our feelings. Some of us eat them; some of us drink them; some of us bury our head in the sand and blissfully sail into denial — I research. I have to know why and I need to know if there was something I missed. I need to know if there was some sign or signal I ignored on the road ahead. I need to know what part I played in this happening to us. You see — it happened to us. This didn’t just happen to me or to my husband. This lie was armor of disloyalty that my son wore for months and when he finally shared the truth, you could literally hear it fall from his shoulders. I am his mother. It’s my responsibility to keep him safe and make sure he feels supported and loved. And so, I need to understand the why. I need to understand despite the feelings of anger, disappointment and fear — perhaps even more so to ease those feelings.
My son was diagnosed with inattentive ADD when he was in high school. If I’m being honest — which if I’m not, I’m not sure why I’m bothering to write this — I wasn’t sold on this diagnosis or the prescriptions that came with it. Society had created vending machine full of crutches to be handed to the next eligible patient and eligibility came with an overpriced office visit and signed documentation from a broken educational system desperately needing to label those who didn’t align to their curriculum. Well, that’s what I believed — then. Before I opened my mind to the reality of anxiety, depression and their dearest cousin ADD.
Through my therapeutic research following the recent confession, I found the ADD family tree happens to extend a branch to lying. There is a clear connection between those who suffer from ADD and compulsive lying. As much as I didn’t want to believe this, the more I read, the more it felt so damn familiar. The lying that is characteristic of those with ADD isn’t about defiance — it’s about the trouble they experience coping with challenges. It’s just another symptom and a clear indication that they need help.
You may be wondering, as I was, what the difference is between a compulsive liar and a pathological liar. After reading many articles and blogs, let me distill it for you here —
- Compulsive liars tell stories they think want to be heard and typically do this to avoid the truth because it’s uncomfortable
- Pathological liars exaggerate things, tend to keep changing their stories, and typically have an agenda or something they hope to gain by lying
So — why is this important? Because we often associate ADD with impulsiveness, and being impulsive can often include lying. The lie happens without forethought or consideration to any consequences. If there is no forethought, then clearly there is no premeditation or plan to achieve something through lying. So what we are dealing with here is compulsive lying. This conclusion was a huge relief to me — the intention was never to hurt us.
I’m not writing this now for the what — I’m writing it for the why.
Does this make you feel any less betrayed? No. But now you know why.
Now you know you have to focus on what led to the lie rather than the lie itself.
If the lie was told because they don’t have the psychological strength to admit the truth and deal with the consequences that will follow, then you can work towards a different future where it’s not necessary to lie. There is hope.
“I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but I DO believe it’s possible to find MEANING in everything that happens.“— Rachel Hollis
This is what I have now — hope. I will continue to research so I am better informed and can try to find the help that is needed. I will continue to search for the why and know that everything may not happen for a reason or make sense, but I can focus on finding the meaning and helping those I love.
Did this hit a nerve or feel all too familiar? Leave a comment and let me know. You are not alone.