Most of us are in the habit of telling the truth, as we understand it, most of the time. We practice honesty in everyday things like where we are going and what we are doing, and we are genuine and authentic in how we present ourselves to others.
We do not live in the pants-on-fire red zone of a moral and factual truth-o-meter.
We expect others to be equally honest and truthful about themselves and their actions. We overlook the little lies to smooth over a rough spot in a relationship or the occasional taking of undeserved credit for a share of the work or success of a project. We expect that on the whole, others will accurately present to us their beliefs, values and personal conduct, and we will do the same. That’s why when we discover someone has intentionally and radically lied about these things, we feel violated and betrayed.
A former business partner of mine is in the habit of concealing important truths about his life. Of course, I did not know this about him initially. When I discovered the truth about this pants-on-fire liar and his intricate web of deception began to unravel, I was devastated. I had trusted him. I had taken him at his word. His reasons for misleading me were not my business. What was my business was the position I now found myself, and what to do about it. I needed to make the decision whether to keep this liar in my life.
The decision was not easy. It felt wrong to reject him because I disagreed with his actions. After much consideration, and consultation with my own trusted advisers, I realized it was unlikely that he would change his ways and he would continue the actions I found unacceptable. I also realized I could not risk my own reputation should his continued actions encounter legal problems, which seemed inevitable.
As far as remaining friends, I was not willing to bet my time that he could reestablish trust with me, nor could I imagine that I would gain anything more from my continued relationship with him, knowing what I knew.
It wasn’t until I realized that I could accept him as a person without being obligated to continue to accept him as my friend that I knew how to resolve the situation. And so one night over dinner I told him that we would not be able to continue either our professional or personal relationships.
It was hard, but I felt good about it because I realized that I have the right to make judgments about the quality of the company I keep. I realized that while I give wide latitude to the choices and decisions made by others, it’s okay to draw boundaries for myself and to honor those boundaries, especially when others do not.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: When you discover someone has betrayed your trust through habitual deceit, what do you do? It’s your choice whether to associate with someone who lacks integrity or to be true to yourself by honoring your own boundaries.
Has someone you know well turned out to be a pants-on-fire liar? How have you handled it? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me, @lifeishotblog, with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!