Here it is: People Lie

You’ve heard it before. Liars lie. It’s become almost a constant in our media-crazed culture. If you lie, deny it. If you lie and get away with it, well, there’s a compulsive liar at work. Because once you lie, the walls are breached. There is very little punishment for lying. Once in awhile everyone dumps on a celebrity. But mostly? They talk their way out of it.

My recent experience isn’t with politicians or talking heads. Or even villains in crime fiction. We expect a certain level of mendacity from these types. But when lying becomes second nature to the people you trust, who you deal with on an everyday basis? That really, really cuts.

At your workplace, your office, your dealings with doctors, lawyers, accountants, retail workers, service providers on your car, your house, and your internet and cable: you expect these people to treat you with respect, which means they tell you the truth. Even if it’s detrimental to their reputations, they say the truth. Even if it gives you bad news based on something they may have done by accident or on purpose, they are honest. They own up. They don’t blame other people. They give you the facts. They don’t shine you on, just so you’ll go away or think they weren’t the ones to blame.

Because, seriously? We are all imperfect. We are all ego-driven, full of ourselves, and protective of that shimmery thing we call our self-esteem. So if you screw up, big or small, what should you do?

I know from experience, it can be hard to admit to screwing up. When I was in college, I belonged to a sorority that I loved. Those girls were so good to me, so sweet. But I still felt a bit… of an outsider. I didn’t live in the sorority house. I was a “townie” who grew up in the city where the university was located. My father was a professor at the University. Just to pay monthly dues was a bit of a stretch, actually, let alone live in the house itself. But when I was hanging around the house as a freshman and sophomore I got asked to move cars of the upperclass women. They got spots in the very small lot but when someone wanted out we had to move cars. I backed a car out the narrow alley, drove over a raised curb between our house driveway and the next house’s, and possibly ruined somebody’s muffler.

I screwed up. When it came up later, I didn’t confess. I knew I did it but I shrank in my chair. I didn’t raise my hand.

Okay, I was 19. I was in college. But these things stick with you. The guilt of what you did, compounded with the guilt of not owning up to it. Ruining someone’s cheap-ass muffler is not much these days, but this is where it all begins, with small transgressions. I’ve always been a terrible liar, or so I thought. Until I lied by not saying anything.

I hope I’ve learned from that. I try to own up to my deficiencies now. To not screw up of course, but when I do, to say so. Life is a lot more complicated than when I was nineteen. But when I see people who should be upstanding, should be balanced, should be fair and honest with others, who shouldn’t be using their weak ego as an excuse to behave like jerks, well, the least I can do is write a blog post. Or tell them what jerks they are. Right?

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  • That is a tough one. I have a friend who didn’t tell me about something he did that ended up costing me a fair amount of money. My only recourse would be to demand that he pay up. But I don’t want to damage the friendship. I’m sticking with not getting myself in that situation again. It is possible to do that but I still feel crummy about it. In time I will forget but we will still be friends. That’s how I slip and slide.

    • A

      Late response here… but this has happened to me too. When your friends take advantage of you it’s strange. You wonder if they really are your friends. My friend lied about an agreement that was verbal so no recourse there. I’m glad you still are friends. It didn’t work out like that for me.

  • You could have written this for my daughter who is a compulsive liar. Sometimes I think she really believes her lies. But her most recently lies were over the line and at present we are not speaking. Of course there is the possibility that she is lying about me to cover up the lies she’s already told. She wasn’t raised that way. “My Creed” is a favorite poem. It begins: I would be true for there are those who trust me. It is truly my creed.

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