Claudia’s Counsel: I have a friend who lies a lot. He’ll seem like he’s telling the truth, but then later I find out that he lied—what should I do?
First off, it’s impressive that you stuck by this friend for so long. Dealing with lying (especially when it is habitual) can be absolutely draining. It is a little odd to think that some people use lies so frequently in their day-to-day communication. A funny thing about people is that their ethical codes can vary somewhat drastically from person to person. Strange as it may seem, the lying that you find upsetting and/or unfair may be something that this individual finds to be completely acceptable.
It is important to note that this person is not likely lying to specifically hurt you, but for some other reason. Perhaps your friend is self-conscious and feels that if he fibs about what he did the night before, he will sound “cooler”; it’s not meant to make you feel excluded or unimportant. College is an opportunity to start with somewhat of a blank slate, and thus people are often extra-selective about the information they choose to share with others. It could be that this person has simply taken this notion a step further and is using false information to create a desired image.
This is not to say that you should continue to put up with this behavior if it is hurtful to you. Ultimately, if this behavior continues and consistently upsets you, it may be time to reconsider the friendship. Such an ingrained habit is not likely to change any time soon—simply telling the other person to cut the crap does not guarantee that your friend will change his ways once and for all.
In good time, your friend will hopefully learn that lies—even those that begin as very small ones—end up being costly in the end. It is extremely difficult to maintain a relationship with someone when your moral codes are measurably misaligned. Unfortunately, there are people in the world who get through much of their life by lying and cheating. They don’t always learn their lesson. If it really becomes too much for you to handle, walk away.
Tips & Tricks
If you ask, ask gently. If you really want to confront your friend about the lying, try to do so in a way that does not come off as too aggressive or confrontational. Give him a chance to change. Use “I” messages to express your own concerns and feelings about having your trust broken instead of pointing the finger and accusing your friend of being deceitful. Hopefully, he will want to maintain your friendship.
Don’t settle and suffer. As I always say, don’t stay in a relationship (be it platonic or romantic) in which you continually feel you are not treated as well as you deserve. Surround yourself with positive people who strive to give only their very best and who will encourage you to do the same. If you put some distance between you and this individual, he may even learn a thing or two about truthfulness during your time apart.