A woman I know recently pulled me aside and apologized for lying to me a couple of years ago. When she told me what she had lied about (because I had no clue that she had), all I could feel was compassion. For her and for myself.

Because I got it. I’ve told lies too…from seemingly innocent stories to minor exaggerations to huge-ass whoppers that could have potentially ruined someone’s life.

I gave her a hug and I told her that I had done the very same thing at one point in my life. I told her about some of the lies I had told and why. 

I can’t speak for my friend, but I know the reason I told the lies that I did is because I felt inadequate, unimpressive, and unimportant.

I’m not saying that I approve of or condone lying, or that having a reason to tell such lies excuses them.

I’m also not saying that I am proud of bad behavior.

I’m also not saying that it’s good to feel inadequate, unimpressive, and unimportant.

What I am saying is that I am compassionate for the part of me that – even though I knew better than to lie – felt so inadequate, unimpressive, and unimportant that I lied to try and make myself feel better.

That’s the “good” reason…I wasn’t aware of what was driving me to exaggerate and lie (those emotions). All I knew was that, for a moment or two, I’d feel better when whomever it was I’d lied to appeared impressed or interested.

I was raised by parents who believed there was nothing worse, in their book, than lying. And there were consequences for lying if I got caught as a child.

Here’s what I came to understand when, as an adult, I decided to share the fact that I’d been lying: the consequences were not something that anyone else, including my parents, could have “given” me. The real consequences were more icky feelings…and those consequences were a natural result of my behavior. They provided evidence for the mostly unconscious thoughts and beliefs I had about myself: that I was unworthy.

If you lie, you probably have a good reason.

And if someone has lied to you, betrayed you, or in some other way “acted out” in a way that you believe impacts you, understand this: it’s not because this person disrespects, hates, or is trying to pull one over on you. It’s because they disrespect, hate, or are trying to pull one over on themselves. And they probably don’t even have a clue about what’s really going on inside them.

And so how do you deal with someone who has lied to you?

First it’s important to ask yourself what you’re making it mean ABOUT YOU that they lied.

In my case, with the young woman, I didn’t make it mean anything about me because I didn’t even know that she had lied.

Then there was the time my stepdaughter lied to me (which I wrote about fairly recently). Holy crap, I made that mean all sorts of things about me (basically that I wasn’t worthy of her respect and honesty) and I had a meltdown to end all meltdowns.

Second, if you’re having a strong reaction, ask yourself if you’re being completely honest in your own life. There’s nothing like a little shadow work to help create clarity.

And finally: understand that when someone else lies to us, it means NOTHING about us. But you can be sure there’s a good reason for it.

Have you ever been a chronic liar/storyteller/embellisher? What were your good reasons for lying?

Or, have you ever been lied to and had an over-the-top reaction? What did you make it mean, about you, that someone had lied to you?

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