I was Raised to Be a Liar§

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: July 23, 2007; revised: April 24, 2018; readers in past month: 532

Fountain at San Babila, Milan

When I was a boy, I was shy and a bit timid: maybe because my extended family was a little loud or because my father died when I was three and that made me cower to life. My cousins and others would ridicule me and harrass me so much that I was afraid to provide them with information to use against me. Since I wasn’t good at being quiet — a natural talker — I would just lie to protect myself. My step-father came on the scene when I was seven and he was very critical of everything I did, everything I said — especially in public or in front of his friends and relatives. In front of others, he expected me to say the correct thing, the polite thing, always. That meant lying to others. He would jump on me for the smallest infractions and question me about my actions and my attitudes. To protect myself, I lied. He was insecure about his education and his intellect — especially in comparison to me. He knew I was smarter than him by far and he didn’t like it. If I would point out that he was wrong in something he said or did, even if I was right, it would make him angry. So I would commit lies of omissions. My mother, to appease him, would tell me that she knew I was right, but that I should just tell him what he wanted to hear so that he wouldn’t get upset. She would encourage me to lie. The culmination of all of this, I’m now realizing, is that I was raised to be a liar.

I was told that lying was wrong. Nevertheless, I was taught to lie. I was encouraged to lie. Life was easier when I lied. Life was miserable and abusive when I didn’t lie, when I was truthful. So, I lied. I didn’t like lying. I wanted to be loyal to the truth, but I was little and lying was my only protection — lying and hiding.

When I got older, I continued to lie. I lied because I didn’t want to be hurt, but mostly because I didn’t want to hurt others. I knew what it was to be hurt and thought that if I didn’t hurt others, even if through lying, I would be doing the right thing. I hated lying. I still hate lying. I’m pretty good at it and it’s easy to do, but I hate lying. I don’t care so much when other people lie to me. I understand why they do it, so it doesn’t bother me. It does bother me when I realize that someone has lied to me to hurt me — not because they lied, but because they intentionally hurt me.

Lying is a hard habit to break, a difficult method of protection to forego. Sometimes when I tell the truth, I have difficulty saying it. For instance, someone will ask me if I want to go to lunch and I will want to say, “No, I have to work,” or something else that’s not true but sounds like a reasonable excuse. Instead, I now will say, “No, I don’t feel like going to lunch tomorrow.” or maybe say what I want to do instead, say the truth, even if it doesn’t sound as good as a lie. I will hestitate in saying the truth because I’m waiting for the person to be upset with me or attack me. Sometimes they are upset, but I’m learning to live with that. I’m learning that I can say the truth even when it’s not as good a sounding of a response as a lie, even if it causes problems for me in the relationship or in some other way. It’s not an easy transition, but it’s good. I’m happier this way, even if the world isn’t as happy with me for being truthful.

Although I’m getting better at not lying about little things, I find that I have difficulty telling the truth about bigger things. Primarily, I find it hard to be honest about relationships. When I’m in a relationship with a woman and I’m not happy with her, I find it very difficult to tell her. I want to be nice and polite, gentlemanly. I don’t want to tell her that I want to break up. Usually, I will stay in the relationship longer than I should because I don’t want to tell the woman the truth. I do this because I don’t want to hurt her feelings. The only thing that usually gets me to tell a woman is another woman. If there is another woman I’m interested in pursuing, I will tell the first I want to end the relationship. Basically, when I’m torn between having to hurt one of two women, then I will chose to hurt the one I want to leave rather than hurt the one I want or to risk losing her.