I hate being lied to. I grew up in a den of liars, so as a parent, I refuse to tolerate lying, but that's easier said than done. My teenage son Keith has lied to me twice in the last 12 hours.
Lying Begets Lying
Everyone in my family of origin lies. My Mom lies to my Dad to cover for my brother Ricky's addiction. Ricky lies to my Mom about why he gets fired or needs money. My Dad lies to the good people at church about why his 40 year-old son is still living with him.
Addiction, fear, and control invite lying. My Dad was super strict when Ricky and I were growing up because he didn't want us to fall in to addiction like he did. I usually submitted to his iron fist, but when I didn't, I lied. When I became a parent, I vowed to not make the same mistake of being so strict. Still, my son lies.
I Also Lie
Last week, my friend Heather asked, "Do you like sushi?"
"Yes!" I lied.
Thirty minutes later, I was staring down a plate of raw fish, trying not to gag. How can I blame my son for lying to me when I'm guilty of lying to please others? I don't just lie to spare my friend's feelings. I even lie to myself. Everyday.
- "It's no big deal."
- "He didn't mean it."
- "It's fine."
- "No, that doesn't make me mad."
- "It's OK."
- "I'm fine."
- "I'd be happy to..."
Telling The Truth Requires Safety
I never felt safe as a kid, nor do I regularly feel safe now. This is quite common for adult children of alcoholics, and it's perhaps the one thing I hate most about my childhood. Above all, I want my son to feel loved and safe. I never want him to feel like I did.
Recovery To The Rescue
Thanks to my stint in recovery, I've learned a lot about healthier communication and resolving conflicts. I can use these tools to help me deal with Keith's lies:
- I don't ask questions to trap him in a lie. This minimizes the number of occurrences, but still Keith lies.
- I cannot make my son quit lying to me.
- Trying to manipulate him into being honest won't work either.
- I can only change me, which means I can set boundaries and enforce consequences when Keith lies. Consistently following through with my consequences will help Keith learn I mean business.
- I'm angered by his lying partially because it shines a light on my lying.
A few weeks ago, my sponsor helped me work through Keith's lying. When he lies, she taught me to say, "I don't believe you because the evidence suggests otherwise." When Keith lies to me, I always see evidence that supports the truth. He's really sloppy and leaves a visible trail.
Regarding my lies, too often, I still don't feel safe enough to be myself. Other times, I don't take the time to decide what I truly want.
Before I can tell the truth, I need to find the truth.
When I lie to myself, I also see the evidence. I get anxious, defensive, and angry with others. Then, I get mad at myself for the self-betrayal.
Healing and trusting takes time, love, and consistency. To help myself be more honest, I need to slow down, examine my motives, and take really good care of myself. Perhaps I'll do the same for Keith too.