Another prompt from Kathleen Duncan:
If you could force all of your clients to do one thing, what would it be?
Any counselor who has been in the business for a while develops a sense of when the client is fudging the truth. There are some reasons why people do this, and not all of those reasons are about making other people look bad.
One reason people lie is that the truth is just too painful. They have spent years blocking it, stuffing it down, denying it. That’s a hard habit to break. It shows up the most often in those who have been sexually abused as children. Telling the truth about what happened to them is very hard, partly because they have been conditioned for years to cover it up.
Well-meaning but uninformed people have told these victims a lot of lies. They have told them, “Just put it behind you now. Quit feeling sorry for yourself. Don’t talk about it and eventually you’ll forget it.”
The victim reaches a point of not really knowing what was truth and what is false. He doubts his own memories, believing he is making things up because he has been told he’s doing so just to get attention.
The truth is, very few children are making it up. It does happen, but it’s rare. There are other behaviors that go along with sexual abuse symptoms that don’t show up if the child is just making up the story.
Other reasons people lie? Well, some folks, by nature or nurture or both, really believe they have to be right every single time. By hook or by crook, they will win. If they have to lie to do so, it’s not their fault. if other people woud only see that they are wrong, always, then the counselee wouldn’t have to lie. This kind of thinking can be part of a sociopathic person’s make-up. It also can be indicative of an abuser, who always blames his behavior on the person he’s just beaten into submission.
Some people are just so mortified by what they’ve done that they can’t bear to own up to it. They want me to fix them without really understanding what I’m dealing with.
Some people want me to fix everyone else in their lives so they can stop lying.
Some want me to tell them their lies are justified. Sometimes, maybe they are.
WHAT?? HOW CAN YOU SAY THA??? LYING IS NEVER OKAY!
Remember that the next time a lie slides out of your mouth, and quit being so quick to judge.
I will never condemn a mother, for instance, for lying to an abusive husband to protect her child. What I will do is encourage her to remove herself and her child from the situation so that she doesn’t have to lie any more. I cannot condemn her for saving her child from a terrible beating.
I will never condemn anyone for lying to protect his family from a murderous intruder. You do whatever you have to do, and worry later about the ethics of not telling the whole truth.
I will never condemn anyone in a war or terroristic situation for lying to protect himself or others. I will take you to the story of Rahab in the Bible, who lied to protect the two Israeli men who were hidden in her dwelling. She did the right thing. She was never condemned by God for her lie, and she was also a part of the lineage of Jesus Christ.
I realize these are extreme examples that most of us will not face. Some of the people I’ve worked with have been in such extreme dangers, and they struggle with lies they may have told to protect themselves and others. You may not agree with me, and that’s fine, but I always try to encourage these people that they did what they had to do and they are not to be blamed.
Getting back to the counseling office, the importance of telling the whole truth is simply this: I cannot help you if you are not telling me the whole truth. It will eventually come out anyway, and then you will feel embarrassed for not having told me sooner. Sometimes we lie by omission, you know. We simply leave out what we don’t want to put words to, hoping that by not saying those words, the truth will disappear. That never works.
You can’t give a seamstress all your measurements except one and then expect her to hand you a perfect result. There’s going to be someplace that doesn’t fit quite right, and you’ll never be satisfied with the garment. Same goes in counseling. I’ll do the best I can with what you give me, but if you leave anything out, the fix will never be completely satisfactory.