A. My adult son lied to me several times. He said he had sent a check for money he owed. When it didn't arrive he made excuses about why it hadn't come. That was two weeks ago and I've still received no check. I'm upset by my son's lying. I've lost trust in him. Why is he lying? What should I do about it?
A. “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” We all lie at times. We tell little white lies that seemingly don't matter. But lying has serious consequences. It erodes trust in relationships which leads to distrust and distance. Lying is a national sickness. Commercial hype and political dishonesty are the rule. Research shows that 91 % of Americans admit they lie routinely!
Lying serves many purposes. We lie to avoid obligations. "I wish I could help but..." We lie to end conversations. "I have to go now because..." We lie to avoid hurting other's feelings. "I love your new dress." We lie to avoid conflict. "The check is in the mail." We lie to keep others at a distance. We say, "I'm fine," when we're really feeling terrible.
We lie by omission. We hide information from our loved ones. The wife hides purchases from her husband. He hides the fact that he lost money betting on his golf game. Many adults hide from their parents the fact that they smoke. The lies we tell others are often the tip of the iceberg compared to the lies we tell ourselves. We hide from ourselves traits that we feel ashamed of or wrongs we have done. We deny and rationalize or project blame onto others.
Lies drain energy from us. They cause us to put up walls and hide who we really are. One lie leads to another and then we must remember every detail of our stories. We struggle to maintain this false self. Lying affects us physically. According to polygraph experts we breathe faster, our hearts beat harder and our blood pressure increases when we lie. Scripture says “The truth will set you free.” And it will.
Your son lies to achieve his own ends and to avoid hassles. He avoided a confrontation by saying he would send the money he owed and later by saying that he had sent it. You need to confront him about this. Otherwise the lies will continue and he may grow more and more alienated from you. Do this in person or, if that's not possible, write him a letter.
Do not say "You lied to me." Even though this is true, an accusation will cause him to put up more walls. Instead, “speak the truth in love.” Tell him about how his lying has really disturbed you. Tell him you find yourself wondering whether you can trust him any more. Tell him of your sadness and hurt about his lying.
But don't act "holier than thou" in telling him. Give him examples from your own life of a time you lied to your parents or to someone close. Tell him that you want your relationship with him to be different. You want to be open and honest with him and hope for the same from him.
It's important also to insist on him paying the money he owes you. He may have learned that lying enables him to avoid responsibility. I hope these ideas will encourage us all to give up our tangled web of lies and face the truth about ourselves. And speak the truth in love to our friends and loved ones.
“Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” Proverbs