Compulsive Lying Versus Tactical Lying

Compulsive vs. Tactical Lying

What’s the difference between compulsive and tactical lying? Compulsions are behaviors beyond a person’s ability to control. And for a long time, many viewed the folks some call “pathological” liars in this light. Traditional thinking has it that some folks’ anxiety is so great that they just can’t help misrepresenting themselves and various things. But in our character-impaired age, people routinely and senselessly lie for other, more practical reasons.

I’ve written before about pathological lying. And I’ve explained the real reasons most so-called “compulsive” or “pathological” liars deceive:

Pathological liars have a singular purpose. They lie to keep a position of advantage. That’s right. As I assert in both Character Disturbance and In Sheep’s Clothing, it’s always about position, position, position for some disturbed characters. Such folks view life as a game or contest. And they don’t want a level playing field. Whenever they engage, they want a leg up on you. Lying helps them keep the advantage. When you don’t who someone really is, how they really feel, or what they’re really up to, you’re automatically in a one-down position. And that’s just the way some disturbed characters like it.

The High Cost of Our Lost Reverence for the Truth

Disturbed characters of all stripes engage in all manner of tactical lying. And they do so without compunction, which is another feature of our narcissistic, character-impaired times. They feel no obligation to sift fact from fiction. Reality is what they say it is – period! And it’s not that they find the truth too painful, so they unconsciously fear and can’t bear it. Rather, it’s that the truth might very well stand in their way. And in their grandiosity and sense of entitlement, they want none of that! So, if actual reality conflicts with their agenda, they’ll ardently promote an “alternate” one. (They don’t have to believe it to promote it!) And sadly, in our times, folks often buy into the lies they spread (for reasons too numerous to address in this post).

As I’ve written about before, in many respects, truth is the ultimate “higher power.” And those who won’t even recognize let alone serve anything bigger than themselves have no use or respect for it. In Essentials for the Journey, I explain how dearly the loss of reverence for the truth has cost us all. And I also explain what we can all do to turn things around.

The Perils of Persisten Lying

Folks who lie persistently can paint themselves into a corner. But that’s not because they can’t stop lying. It’s because they won’t stop lying, out of disdain for any governing higher power and a lack of reverence for anything or anyone outside of their own interests and purpose. At some level, they might even realize that they’ve boxed themselves in. But in their abhorence (notice, I didn’t say “fear”) of subordinating their will to something bigger, they persist despite all costs. It seems senseless and irrational to most of us. But it’s the way they insist on living. To them, subordination is worse than death.

In summary, most so-called “pathological” lying is actually tactical lying, for the sole purpose of maintaining a position of advantage to abuse and exploit you.

Here more about this topic on the latest Character Matters podcast.

8 thoughts on “Compulsive Lying Versus Tactical Lying

  1. Thanks for your post – definitely very truthful and needed in today’s day and age!
    Please can you point me to reasons as to why most folks buy into the lies that are spread these days? Thanks!

  2. I’ve been dealing with a coworker/friend for years who lies on a daily basis. She does it to give the perception of being at a higher level than what she is talking about. She won’t admit to shortcomings. It’s always about perception with her, which is misperception. It’s so annoying that I am having a more difficult time than ever having conversations with her. I’m just fed up. On the other hand, she’s a friend.
    Last week I confronted her about her hearing, she kept asking me to repeat. She got so angry that I asked if her ears were plugged that she shouted at me, said I mumble a lot (I absolutely don’t mumble) and grabbed her head as she stormed out my office. Then came back and confronted me suggesting I was rude to her for suggesting she had hearing difficulty. When a person is sitting two feet from me and ask me to repeat myself four times within two minutes, I’d say there is a hearing issue.
    Anyway, she attempted to gaslight me saying I’m a mumbler. There is so much character disorder there that I’ve been avoiding conversing. I just can’t tolerate the nonsense anymore. But we work together. So there you have it — stuck with trying to deal with it.

    1. Lucy, if no one else has commented that you’re a mumbler than I’m with you, you’re not. Your coworkers reaction was a touch over the top so me thinks she’s been told this before, perhaps from a family member.

      On a different note, next week I’m meeting a complete stranger in a public place to talk about joining a woman’s group she’s organized in her home. I’ve found my friendships have really changed over the course of the pandemic and I need to get out more!
      I’m very much looking forward to meeting new people and observing the dynamics. I don’t know how many women there are but I do know it’s limited. The women meet during the day every two weeks so it will be an easy commitment for me. At the this point what do I have to lose and if there are some unhealthy personality types amongst this group I’ll have the luxury of bowing out or watching and learning:)

      1. D.
        I’ve been told twice by her only that I mumble, both times when I asked her if her hearing was ok. I’m positive I don’t mumble. I just don’t like how she attacked me instead of addressing the hearing issue.

        About the group, it sounds like a good idea. I joined a Meetup group about five years ago to meet new people. It’s a fun group of people who like to socialize. Meetup groups have different categories of interest. They are nationwide. I’ve met several people who I’ve become closer to and we do things together of common interest. It’s a safe way to meet new people. If this group you find isn’t your cup of tea, know that there are several Meetup groups out there. I wish you the best!

        1. Hi Lucy, just to clarify, the group I’m considering joining and this group who are considering me as a candidate aren’t a Meet-Up group.

          I’m familiar with the Meet Up platform, I’ve just not seen anything that interests me….yet.

    2. Lucy,

      That sounds very frustrating. It sounds like she perceives that hearing trouble as a weakness/ vulnerability not to be accepted. Can understand why it bothers you. Don’t know about you, but at certain times, especially while I’m working through accepting certain character issues with people, my frustration tolerance is really low. Just do not have the patience or ability to detach.

      Curious, is she a good friend? Does she have your back? This is not a judgement, just an observation as I’m really paying attention to this in particular, friends don’t constantly lie to you.

      It’s really challenging to have to deal with them on a daily basis. Hope it gets better for you.

      1. Healing
        My frustration level is low for sure. This coworker has been especially challenging. She’s been a person I’ve confided in over the years and had lots of laughs and rough times sharing. But anymore, I am less tolerant of the stupid things she says, her beliefs, her complaining, whining, lying. My other coworker/friend mentioned to me that everything she says I disagree with. And she’s right.
        Now I’m struggling with how to break apart a 30 year long coworker/friendship that is now driving me bonkers. I’m just over this nonsense.

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