When a witness is asked to give testimony in a court trial, she s asked to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If she fails to do so and her dishonesty is discovered, she could be charged with perjury and be sent to prison herself. Fortunately, prosecutors and law enforcement agencies do not enforce such stringent standards with respect to normal social communications. If they did, the entire American population would now have a criminal record. Social lying is not exactly an epidemic, but it is a custom that to some extent is expected and even tolerated, as long as the lies are not too outrageous and do not put other people in danger. It has often been said that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and when it comes to lying, each one of us has an unrestricted panoramic view of the cultural countryside that surrounds us. But maybe for you it isn’t just about the occasional white lie, self-serving exaggeration, or harmless fib. Maybe you have gotten so used to lying for profit, personal benefit, or the sense of satisfaction you get from pulling off your scams that you are now lying all the time about everything under the sun. Your behavior may have strayed far beyond anything rational or useful at this point, and you may be conscious enough about your behavior to wonder why you have developed the habit of stretching, bending and breaking the truth on such a regular basis. Things have gotten so far out of hand that you can’t even help yourself anymore, and this makes you a dyed-in-the-wool textbook example of a type of individual known as a compulsive liar. When you told that first little white lie (or at least you told yourself it was just a white lie) being believed no doubt gave you extra satisfaction in addition to whatever direct benefits you received as a result of this act. And then after that you repeated your trick and it worked again, and then again, and before you knew it your lying had snowballed and you soon found yourself rolling down a hill as steep and tall as Mount Kilimanjaro. But it isn’t as if you really regretted it; in fact, you came to enjoy the feelings of power and control your lying gave you.
The Living Death of the Liar
Perhaps you are thinking that while your situation isn’t ideal, at least it is survivable. You have gotten so good at lying that no one really realizes you have this habit, and as long as your lies are relatively benign, you are not going to cause anyone else undue harm or misery. But there is something about your compulsive lying that you don’t know, and it is something that you need to comprehend before you fall any deeper down the rabbit hole. The cold hard truth is that compulsive liars don’t just lie to others, they also lie to themselves, and when you tell yourself that you aren’t really going to face any severe consequences as a result of your bad habit and that you are fabulously successful at hiding your secret from others, this is all a total and complete delusion. It is wishful thinking of the most refined form, and even though you actually believe you are OK, you are not, not by a long shot. Despite what you have chosen to believe, you are not fooling anyone who has known you for any length of time—they all know about your lying habit, whether they have said anything or not—and they are all sick of it and of your ridiculous behavior. Compulsive lying means trouble in your relationships and trouble on the job, and if you haven’t lost any friends or experienced unemployment yet, you will soon. It is only a matter of time. In a very broad sense, your compulsive lying may be survivable, but what exactly is it that is surviving? Compulsive liars are experts at hiding in the shadows; their lying gives them a feeling of control and power, but the successes they experience when attempting to fool others are shallow victories, eagerly sought to cover for the fact that at the subconscious level compulsive liars are filled with fear and anxiety and a feeling that they have no ability to make anything good or lasting appear in their lives. The powers of the liar to trick, con and manipulate will only lead to self-destruction in the end. If you do not take aggressive and proactive steps to overcome your compulsive lying problem, the sand castles of illusion you have built to support and protect your tenuous existence could collapse into a heap of nothingness in the blink of an eye.
From Living a Lie to Living in Truth
Compulsive lying is a symptom of deep-seated psychological problems. Whatever the root of these issues might ultimately turn out to be, it is vital that you seek professional help immediately, before your life spins any further out of control. And make no mistake, your life is out of control whether you realize it or not. Compulsive lying is destroying your future even as it is ruining your present; it is distracting you with callow comforts while preventing you from living a life filled with meaningful achievement and intimate personal connection. You began to lie to compensate for your underlying feelings of inadequacy, but once lying became your reason for being, those feelings became even more firmly rooted in place, as deep inside you knew and have known all along that the way you have been behaving is shameful and undignified. Your existence is a shell, a creation of the interplay of mirrors, and the only way for you to break out of the lonely prison you inhabit is to confide in someone who has the experience and the insight to advise you and guide you back into the light of truth. Believe it or not, there is a real life waiting out there for you, but you will not be able to find it unless you first find the courage to face up to the truth about your habit of deception and the mess it is making of everything. Continue living a lie or learn to live in truth: these are your only two options and the choice is entirely yours—that’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.