When you are lied to, many things happen. Mistrust and suspicion rise naturally to the top of that list. We’re not going to deal with those aspects of the lie. Instead, we’ll deal with the actual lie itself. A lie is an attack on the truth, and it is the truth that needs defending here more than your injured feelings. What do you do with the lie when you are lied to? How do you handle a lie?
#1 – NEVER REACT EMOTIONALLY TO A LIE
Every lie will hurt. In some cases, a lie will hurt deeply. And you will naturally have strong emotional reactions to a lie. But there needs to be a point where you step outside the pain and look at the lie objectively. Anger, rage, or any sort of emotional reaction will only justify to the other person the need to lie in the first place. The liar won’t be contrite because he was caught. He’ll be contrite that he didn’t lie well enough.
Many people lie to avoid trouble and confrontation. A wife may lie about an innocent conversation with another man because she knows how her jealous husband would react. If she is caught in the lie and her husband blows up, she’ll just wished she’d have lied better. The husband needs to be calm.
Take time to settle down before addressing the lie. You may need to pretend that the lie was told to someone else, not you. You need to be somewhat objective and distant before you can do anything about it.
#2 – YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHY YOU WERE LIED TO
The basic reasons why people lie are these:
- To get out of trouble.
- To gain something.
- Because they fear something.
- To be thought of better.
- To hurt someone.
There are others, but these are the most common. In dealing with a lie, it is important to try to find out why you were lied to. Did they fear your reaction? Were they trying to hide something they knew you wouldn’t approve of? Were they trying to get you to think better about them? Did they know they would get in trouble if they spoke the truth? Were they just trying to hurt you?
The reason for the lie will give you insight into their character and thinking. If someone was just trying to get me to think more highly of him or her, I’d be much more inclined to dismiss the lie. But if they were trying to hurt me with the lie, it would be much tougher to trust the liar and dismiss it.
So try to figure out why you were lied to. You aren’t necessarily even looking for specifics of a particular lie. Rather you just want to know the purpose of the lie and what they were trying to accomplish.
A fear can be easily dealt with by a loving friend, parent, or spouse. But anger and selfishness are two more complicated problems. Knowing why will help you in what you can do.
#3 – YOU MUST CONFRONT THE LIE MORE THAN THE LIAR
Once you understand why you were lied to, you now need to confront the lie itself. A lie cannot go unaddressed. With that in mind, you need to know that the end result will never be satisfying to you. You won’t leave a conversation about a lie feeling good or at ease. After all, you were lied to. That fact won’t change, and the conversation that follows, even at its best, is not going to be pleasant. It’s just the nature of the beast.
Your goal is to demonstrate maturity and rationalization in front of the person that lied to you. You want to get them to realize that lying to you was not only unnecessary, but a complete waste of time.
Every option you have to fix the motivation behind the lie will be dismissed if you attack the person who lied. You need to talk. You need to describe your fears about potential problems that the lie produces. There is no need to say things like:
- “How could you lie to me!”
- “How dare you!”
- “You lying pig (or other worthless expletive)!”
- “I hate you!”
Phrases like those above accomplish nothing. Instead, you need to talk about where you see the lie taking you and your fears of going there. In a way, you need to detach the lie from the person who told the lie. This will allow you to work together to solve the motivation behind the lie. Do your best to get the other person to realize that his lie has consequences they never dreamed about. You can even talk about what your feelings might make you think and do in the future.
Again, address the lie, but don’t attack the person who lied.
#4 – FIND A WAY TO FORGIVE THE LIE
I didn’t say that you had to find a way to trust the liar. Forgiveness will release you from the pain and burden of the lie. If you can’t forgive, you’ll carry a burden much too heavy to carry. It will cripple you emotionally and prevent you from having any strength to actually fix the relationship.
Forgiveness is for you, not the person that lied to you. You forgive them so that you can deal with the situation and hopefully grow beyond it.