There was a charmer called Thomas
Who broke too many a promise
His mouth was a liar
His pants caught on fire
His name’s all that’s left of dear Thomas
No idea who Thomas is or why his words are now ashes. My neighbour had a bonfire, and this is all that was left of it… so my mind spun a little story. A lie known as imagination.
Unfortunately this is not a foolproof lie detecting system. Liars’ pants do not often, if ever, catch on fire, and if they did, we’d all suffer burns. We all lie, some more than others, and there is an endless variation of lies, from itty bitty white lies to big fat whoppers, from creative fiction to autobiographical memories, from self-deception to manipulation, and so on into infinity… if such a thing exists.
Lying, like the truth, is subjective. One person’s lie may be a truth for someone else. It depends on your interpretation of what a lie is and what a truth is. So, it’s complicated.
We all have our own lie detecting tools. Sometimes they are effective, and sometimes they are defective. Accuracy relies on calibration. If we created the lie detector based on a certain type of liar, then it will detect people who have a similar style, but won’t detect those who have a style which we have not dealt with before. It also relies upon our personal motivations and interests. If someone tells you something you want to hear, you are less likely to consider that it is a lie. If someone tells you something you don’t want to hear, then it’s probably going get classified as a lie, and the person branded a liar.
Someone I know, who is quite a charmer and relies a lot on their charm to travel far, told me that they would rather be told the truth even if it hurts, than be lied to to be spared the pain… they said this after they had gotten very hurt and upset at an inane comment I made. When I pointed out to them that their heroic approach to hearing the abrasive truth instead of a gentle lie was not reflected in their actions which denoted someone seeking comfort in a lie to escape the truth… they evaded the truth once again.
The concept that the truth hurts is a bit errant, and strays from the truth about truth. The awful truth hurts because it aims to sting and is usually not the truth at all, but a lie disguised as truth. Real truth, as in someone just saying what they think as long as it is done with understanding, usually doesn’t hurt… unless you’re hell bent on being hurt or living a lie. Lies are similar, some lies are told to hurt, some to help, others because… it is sometimes hard to know what is real and what isn’t.
So… how do you tell the difference between a lie and a truth?
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Do you have a keen eye for a lie?
Or do you just think that you do?
A while ago I came across the website of someone who not only claimed to have a keen eye for a lie, but could prove it with scientific data.
I found the website fascinating for a while, suspended my disbelief and accepted their version of the truth… it cost me nothing to do so, so why not?
Then something changed… something which bothered me and continued to bother me.
Yet I continued to be fascinated, but it was a different type of fascination, one which touched upon something else with which I was fascinated at that time.
Personally, I don’t think a truth serum would make a blind bit of difference when it comes to knowing the truth…
The truth is… ?
The truth is a moveable feast and sometimes it is an unpalatable dish.
Just because we think someone is lying, does not mean that they are.
Just because we think someone is telling the truth, doesn’t mean that they are.
Just because we believe what we’re saying, to ourselves, to others…
If our pants caught on fire when we lied… that truth serum would give all of us burns.
Oh how the universe works in mysterious ways. This post is so timely for me right now. I have just discovered that a man who was a platonic friend of mine, and who then got together romantically with a girlfriend of mine (I encouraged this) was a total liar. Everything he told me about his situation was lies. And I had no idea. He was a good friend to me, he helped me with some odd jobs and I cooked him a meal each time. I listened to his tales of woe with regard to his flatmates, dating other women (this was before he got together with my girlfriend) and his ex wife. I believed him, I had no reason not to. And is was all crap. I’ve since discovered from another girlfriend who also knows him that he has a criminal record and is quite a dangerous man. OMG! I’m now really questioning myself and my supposedly ‘great intuition’ about people. He had me totally fooled and I had no idea. 😦
Great post! So how do you tell the difference between a lie and the truth? Many times you can’t. I was totally fooled too deeinnz. And I thought I had good intuition. But I think I still do and you do too. It’s just as Ursula mentioned, “we won’t detect those which have a style which we have not dealt with before.” I had never really dealt with a pathological liar. I’ve been around liars but not this type. I think people that are pathological liars, actually are so dellusioned that they are able to tell a lie with the same conviction that we have when telling the truth. We hear this conviction in their words and tales and believe them. BUT, I have learned that I need to question more when they say something that seems to good to be true or expose something that makes them look vulnerable or helpless (the poor me kind of thing). A good friend of mine is good at doing this-she’s been screwed by a liar too. She will delve deeper and ask more-this tends to shut the bullshitters up, as they don’t want to go deeper, as they are working off their script and it makes them uncomfortable that you question. Through Ursula’s blog, I have learned to ask lots of questions-Ursula is very good at doing this-now I think I know why.
In the past, I would pick up on the unease if I asked too much from a liar. Then I would stop asking since it made me feel weird too-I didn’t want to make them uncomfortable. In a way “I was seeking comfort in the lie to evade the truth” too- and I wasn’t the one lying! But I became apart of the lie. Pisses me off that I’d do that. I was the one denying. To deny a lie is almost worse and it works for awhile but in the end it kills the protector- the person that hears the lie. So I have learned to fuck that tactic…I’ll be uncomfortable for 5 minutes in a conversation if it spares me 3 years invested in someone who was never who they said they were. Lesson learned.
Thank you ❤
You have excellent instincts and intuition. It’s something which shines very clearly in your words and energy. And like you pointed out, having those skills requires working with them, which sometimes is complex because of other factors which intertwine with them.
Great comment, much insight and wisdom 😀
Hi Olivebranch 🙂 and Hi Ursula 🙂
Sorry to hear you too were fooled Olivebranch.
You wrote: ” And I thought I had good intuition. But I think I still do and you do too. It’s just as Ursula mentioned, “we won’t detect those which have a style which we have not dealt with before.” I had never really dealt with a pathological liar. I’ve been around liars but not this type. I think people that are pathological liars, actually are so dellusioned that they are able to tell a lie with the same conviction that we have when telling the truth. We hear this conviction in their words and tales and believe them”
Yes, I’d just also recently come to that conclusion when discussing the situation with my girlfriend (the one who had the relationship with the pathological liar). What made it harder for me to understand is I literally can ‘read energy’ or the vibe of what is going on. So, I looked back on the ‘energy’ of the situation and remembered it as being ‘real’. There were no red flags. I’ve got (usually) a finely tuned antenna for any kind of bullshit or crap and generally recognise red flags early on. I said to my girlfriend on the phone, exactly what you say above, that these pathological liars are so good at it and so dellusioned that they actually believe what they are saying to be true, so therefore it comes across to us as real.
I normally do ask lots of questions (cos I”m just naturally nosy and am generally fascinated by people) and know what you mean about some people getting all uncomfortable with too many questions.
I so love this “”So I have learned to fuck that tactic…I’ll be uncomfortable for 5 minutes in a conversation if it spares me 3 years invested in someone who was never who they said they were. Lesson learned.”” So wise and so true.
And Ursula, agree entirely with what you say here:
“”One of the great sides of human nature is our universal tendency to take people at face value. We trust others to present themselves as they are, because we figure that doing anything else is a bit silly as we’ll find out eventually if they’re not being themselves once we get to know them better. Of course we all put our ‘best’ face forward when we meet someone new, but that best face is usually still a part of our whole face.””
And thanks for your kind words. 🙂
I was watching the TV show ‘Damages’ the other night and in one scene the main character, Patty (who just never stops lying), asked the other main character, Ellen (who is rather naive and slowly learning that everyone lies all the time in her social group) – When did you first learn to lie? – this question perplexed Ellen as she sees herself as being moral and honest even when she lies, and Patty’s answer to her own question is a wonderfully insightful truth. She says that she learned to lie when she was 3yrs old.
Of course it’s more than just about ‘when’ a person learns to lie, it’s also about the ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what’… what you get for lying which you don’t get for telling the truth, or what you don’t get for lying and do get for telling the truth. If you get regularly punished for telling the truth, you learn to lie to avoid being punished. Pathological lying is often a survival mechanism. It often starts early, in childhood, in a hostile environment, and then it becomes a part of the individual, and continues into adulthood. The person may no longer be aware that they are lying once they are an adult. And even if they are aware, they may not be able to stop themselves from doing it because the pattern is ingrained and a hard habit to break, especially as society in many ways encourages it.
How many times do we refrain from speaking the truth because we’re afraid of what will happen if we do? For some people this fear is a primal one and they respond to it as such.
Every day in many little ways we get rewarded for lying and rejected for telling the truth, and it happens internally as well as externally. Some people are more painfully aware of this. Some people buffer this pain by living a lie, in a self-delusional bubble. Once you believe the lie yourself, then it is easy to sell it to others, especially if your lie is one which supports the delusions of others. And so it goes.
Lying all the time, whether someone is aware of it or not, is stressful… which is why even the greatest liars sometimes deliberately (consciously or unconsciously) give themselves away. It’s such a relief to not have to lie. Which is why we like the concept that ‘The truth will set you free’ because it does, it’s a great stress reliever 🙂
Wow, Ursula, brilliant as usual. I’d never thought of it like that before, what you have said makes total sense. 🙂
There’s an interesting article I came across recently – http://www.drjenniferhoward.com/blog/Relationships/Red-Flags-in-Relationships-Part-1.asp – which discusses, sort of, some of the possible the reasons why we sometimes only see ‘red flags’ in hindsight.
Hindsight is a frigging (loud) genius… but never there in foresight, or often ignored when it is foresight which may be why it’s such a know it all later, hammering us with its ‘I told you so but you ignored me”.
One of the great sides of human nature is our universal tendency to take people at face value. We trust others to present themselves as they are, because we figure that doing anything else is a bit silly as we’ll find out eventually if they’re not being themselves once we get to know them better. Of course we all put our ‘best’ face forward when we meet someone new, but that best face is usually still a part of our whole face.
It takes time and effort to get to know others better, it’s one of the pleasures in a relationship, peeling the layers back bit by bit as the relationship progresses beyond being a casual acquaintance. Finding new things out, discovering the world within a person.
Sometimes we discover that the person is very different from who they said they were and the version of reality, themselves and others, they have been giving us. That’s when we tend to stick the label ‘narcissist’ on them, especially if what they presented us with was that they are awesome but everyone else is shit. And if we believed them… we feel rather stupid, and we hate that feeling.
There was no reason to doubt this guy… until there was. After that you did the right thing. So, no reason to question yourself, the way you behaved was normal and natural. He didn’t have you totally fooled as you found him out eventually… intuition sometimes takes time to get its information across because its messages can be very subtle, and there is so much going on every moment of every day. Cut yourself some slack and be safe in the knowledge that things will out… when the time is right and you are ready.
Sometimes we know things about others immediately… sometimes it take a bit longer to know things, that doesn’t mean our intuition isn’t great, it’s just a different kind of great, working differently because each person we meet is different and it takes more time to know some than it does with others.
Focus on what you know now, and on the value of that. Don’t judge the now on the then 🙂
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