Pathological lying is a particular kind of lying. Many would argue that lying is simply part of being human. We all do it at one time or another. Sometimes our lies are relatively benign and inconsequential. (That’s the character of “little white lies”.) But lying can be really problematic at times. And it can cause much unnecessary pain and suffering. It can decimate relationships. Moreover, some disturbed characters among lie habitually. And they seem to lie no apparent rational reason. They lie about little things. And they lie even when the truth would appear to serve better. We’ve often called such liars “pathological” liars.
Pathological lying seems to make no sense. It’s hard to understand why someone would lie when the truth would suffice. And it’s especially hard to understand why someone would lie when the truth might well serve them better.
Pathological liars aren’t crazy. There’s actually method to their apparent madness. They may drive you crazy with their antics. But once you understand why they do what they do you can restore your sanity.
The Method to the Madness
Pathological liars have a singular purpose. They lie to keep a position of advantage. That’s right. As I assert in Character Disturbance, 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 the advantage. Lying helps them keep the advantage. It’s hard to pin them down. And when you can’t pin them down, you can’t know what’s really going on. You don’t know what might really be up to. You cant tell how they really feel, or what they really want. And you can’t know who they really are. That automatically puts you in a one-down position. And that’s just the way they like it.
Pathological lying has its payoffs. But it can take its toll, too. Sometimes the truth simply has to out. But pathological liars persist to the very end. They don’t concede the truth until their wall of lies is forced to come crashing down. Sometimes, the evidence simply piles up against them. That’s when cracks in the wall develop. However, quite often the wall of lies doesn’t tumble until a lot of damage has already occurred.
Death of the Truth and Erosion of Trust in our Narcissistic Age
In our narcissistic culture, the truth, and regard for it has taken a real beating. Truth has no value when life is all about getting what you want or manipulating people’s impressions. And Lying is the penultimate manipulation tactic. As I mention in In Sheep’s Clothing, it’s also the main way folks resist acceding to moral principles. For years, we’ve been in an age of deceit. And many have truly been at war with the truth.
Disregard for the truth has infected almost every aspect of culture. There’s deception in our advertising, our teaching, our politics, even our news. Sadly, deception has even infiltrated science, once the bastion of relentless, unbiased truth pursuit. The goal is no longer discovering and living by the truth. The goal is now winning, advancing an agenda, swaying opinions, securing power, etc., by any means necessary. And that means constantly, fudging, distorting, twisting, and “spinning.” In such a culture, there’s simply no room for the truth.
Lying, especially pathological lying, takes its deepest toll on relationships. The foundation of any healthy, intimate relationship is trust. Where there’s no trust, there can’t be intimacy. It’s simply too dangerous. As I point out in How Did We End Up Here?, breaches of trust have destroyed more relationships than I care to count.
Restoring Some Sanity
Sanity will be restored to our culture when reverence for the truth returns. Truth is, perhaps, the most precious “higher power” that can govern our lives. But as you may already know, narcissists neither recognize nor revere any higher power.
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