Living with lies – part 2

The worst thing about living with someone else’s lie is that it will destroy relationships you actually care about. It’s bad enough to live with your own lies, but living with someone else’s is insane and is totally unnecessary.

You inherit someone else’s lie, because you agree in an unguarded moment to participate in covering up their lie. Then, it seems unsociable or impolite to go back on your enforced participation.

Sadly, the only right answer to to tell them to go peddle their mess somewhere else and that they screwed up big time by trying to get you involved. If you have the courage to do this, you will lose only one "friend", but you will keep your integrity intact and you will not mess up your relationships with the rest of the world around you.

Now for the real-life example I mentioned in my last post: the "friend" who says, "Don’t tell anyone, but I am cheating on my husband."

When I lived in Florida, our best friends lived at the other end of the street. Bill, the husband was my closest friend. Our kids played with their kids and we did barbecues and dinners together at least once a week. I got divorced and moved away and they moved north to upstate New York, but we still kept in touch.

I had a chance to visit them a few years later and arranged to stay overnight and spend the weekend skiing with them. I was looking forward to a happy reunion with people I really cared about. As I got out of the car, the wife came out and greeted me warmly and said, "Don’t tell anyone, but I am having an affair with my ski instructor."

Bummer! I didn’t have the presence of mind to object. I just nodded numbly and went into the house and greeted everyone else.

The weekend went downhill from there. The weather was beautiful and the skiing was perfect, but the strain of concealing this woman’s activities was wearing thin by the time I left. Her three children were aware of her relationship with another man and discussed it with me, but I could not bring myself to discuss the situation with Bill, my long-time friend.

The end result was that I completely severed relationships with this family because I could not deal with the fact that I had participated in covering up something I did not approve of in the slightest.

In subsequent years, I have found myself in business situations where I was asked to be a party to concealing information about unethical corporate activities. In these situations, there were no bonds of friendship to confuse me and I spoke out rather than participate. I was subsequently dismissed or left of my own accord and I have no regrets for the outcomes.

It is a hard call, and you will have to make your own decisions, but doing the right thing always works out for the best eventually. Doing the wrong thing and covering up another person’s lies will stick with you for a long, long time.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned!.  🙂

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0 Responses to Living with lies – part 2

  1. Wow…this is a very significant topic David, one that bears quite a good amount of mediation and reflection. The first thing I would like to point out is that in order to honest with others one has to be completely honest with themselves, first!

    This is not as easy as it may seem, because all of us cannot see ourselves objectively, entirely. What I mean specifically is that our eyes point and look outward — we cannot look at ourselves, without using a mirror— or seeing a reflection.

    That reflection is the feedback and input we get from others. It is what others tell us about us—or it could be something as simple as seeing there reaction (body language) to something to which we say. In any case, we get clues of who we are and how honest we are through the “reflection” that we get from others.

    Now hear is the tricky part—how many of us truly are willing to listen and accept the feedback, corrections and input that we get from others? A good amount time and effort is spent by us “deflecting” what we hear –or justify or rationalizing our own behavior.

    This is where the root of lies take up residence.

    We justify a behavior or thought, rationalize it (in your post, there was a lot of rationalizing going on in the mind and heart of your former female friend) without thinking or knowing the impact that it has in the world around us.

    Bottom Line: Lies hurt all of us. While you may think that telling a “little white lie” here or there—can’t hurt—in fact they do. They cut us off from the flow of our own bio-feedback mechanisms—mechanisms which, we need to live a healthy and effective life!

  2. yoav says:

    David, as always, your writing is thought provoking. I read both posts on the lie issue.

    I was asked once to tell a customer that I was working on his project although at the time I wasn’t. After reading your post and doing some thinking, my decision is “not again”.

    The other situation that you have presented is much tougher. You were caught between the hammer and the anvil. In that situation I too wouldn’t say any thing. That is because in this case any thing you do is an active intervention in some thing that you are not a part of.

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