I found myself in a spot of trouble a few years ago and told a lie to get out of it. As time has gone by, the lie has become bigger and bigger and it’s taking a terrible toll on my life. I’m worried that if I tell the truth now my family and friends will despise me for being so dishonest with them for such a long time. What can I do?
You have to be honest. You already know that. This lie is now costing you too much personally. The whole episode has been an invaluable learning experience. You are discovering, first hand, that lying is not the easy answer it seems. In fact, lying is very expensive, and the cost mounts as time goes on.
I have known people on their deathbed consumed with worry about a simple lie they told in their youth. Repressed all that time, the lie eventually will out and, once conscious, it demands absolution.
You lied because you feared the consequences of telling the truth. That is always the reason we lie. We convince ourselves that our lie protects others from feeling hurt. That too is a lie. Our real objective is to protect ourselves.
Choosing honesty takes courage. Dishonesty is always driven by fear. If you doubt this, examine the underlying motivation for any lie you tell. If you cheat on your taxes, you fear poverty. If you lie to your boss, you fear being sacked. If you lie to your partner about flirting with another, you fear losing your partner. If you say you love him or her when you don’t, you fear being either alone, frustrated or insecure.
For most of us there is a difference between what society expects and who we really are. We put on a facade to cope with this discrepancy. Being agreeable seems harmless; we are just trying to keep people happy. But there is a cost. We gradually loose touch with who we really are. And that is painful. Over time, the emotional pain of pretence can make us physically sick.
You have continued to lie so others will like you. But all their positive feelings about you are counterfeit. Who do they really like? The real “you”? Or the false “you” created by the lie?
You are receiving no benefits from this lie. You must come clean. If they ask, explain why you did it but don’t make excuses or get defensive. Some people will be dismayed; some angry, and some will be accepting. Their reactions will tell you a lot about them. Those who reject you lack self-knowledge. They believe they never lie. They believe they are better than you. These are delusions.
Your friends and family will probably be upset when you own up. But this will settle down over time. If you keep choosing to be honest, your worthwhile friends and family will gradually rebuild trust in you.