Fix It: I Caught My Friend in a Lie

By Janis Kupferer

The truth of the matter (which is a funny way to start a post about lying) is that almost everybody lies. Your grandma lies, your neighbor lies, your father fibs and yes, even your best girlfriends tell tales. So how do you handle a fibbing friend? Forgive and forget, or simply forget … her?


The Truth About Lying
Remember that conversation you had with Pauli last night? Yeah, well, in the 10 minutes you spent talking with her, she lied to you 3 times. Oh … and you lied 2 – 3 times yourself.

Popular research claims that within a normal conversation (lasting 10-minutes or more), nearly 60% of folks will pass off an average of 2-3 lies. That’s roughly a lie ever 3 minutes! And while this little tidbit might be an amusing anecdote to carry into your next cocktail party, when falsehoods enter your own conversations, they somehow lose their amusing charm.

So what’s a gal to do when a particularly close pal is among the 60%—like always in the 60%, and especially when her tales aren’t just tall, but surpass skyscraper heights?

Well it kind of depends on the reason she is lying, and the type of lying she does. See, although lying in general is almost never commendable, sometimes is it “somewhat acceptable.” Of course, other times, lies are just downright malicious and hurtful, and it becomes necessary to pull the plug on the lies and the liar.

Let’s walk through the web of deceit together to determine the best strategy for when a friend lies.


Types of Lies, and When to Use Them:
Having browsed through the internet (the ultimate web of deceit), I came up with, found and mashed together about seven unique types of lies and why they are used. They are as follows (in ascending order of my perceived severity):

1. White Lies – the fibs we tell to protect someone’s feelings and keep the peace
2. Minimizations & Exaggerations – lies told to soften or spice up a story
3. Omissions – leaving out an important element to sway the situation to our favor
4. Fabrications – invented stories or elements, presented as fact to enhance our image
5. Denial – claiming zero responsibility or involvement in a situation to protect our self image, end a conflict, and/or to keep the peace
6. Outright Deception – lies motivated by malicious or hurtful intent

As you can see, the range of lies is great, from the “I’m sorry, I broke my arm and can’t help you move” type of lie to the “If you invest with me, I’ll double your money in a week” lies. Some are fairly harmless, albeit transparent (and a bit of a sting when realized), and some are simply downright, lowdown, underhanded, “karma-will-find-you” lies. The type of lie a friend tells is completely dependent on why they think a dishonest approach is best.

I believe, how you handle a friend’s lie should relate to the reason for the lie.


Forgotten, Forgiven or Forever Fractured

Unless they are lying (hee hee), researchers state that the typical person is confronted with approximately 200 lies per day. And the reason for this number is that lying is an inbred defense mechanism—infants, animals, even fish use deceptive practices. But it would be wrong to believe that all lies are malicious. Researchers go on to say that nearly 25% of lies are altruistically motivated, that is, they are intended to protect the receiver. The other 75%—well the majority of those are driven by the simple need to protect or enhance our own fragile egos.

So when is it appropriate to forgive and forget a lie, and when does lying necessitate the end of a friendship?

In my expert opinion—which is based only on the fact that I am myself a liar (apparently), and that I get lied to about 200 times a day—that the grand majority of lies should be simply forgotten.

Forget’em:
The lies that resemble the following …

“I’m late because I lost my key.”
“Absolutely I’d let you borrow that dress, but it is at the dry cleaners.”
“Yep, I think he’ll call—definitely, he’ll call.”

… these lies, all of them I think should be forgotten. In the grand scheme of life and friendship, these little white lies are meant merely to keep our relationships happy and whole. And even though most of us quickly and completely see through them, we also quickly and completely understand why they are offered.

Forget these, they don’t require forgiveness or even a second thought. If they become more and more commonplace, well then, that is something to consider and talk about with your friend, but an occasional “lost keys” excuse requires zero energy. Don’t give it any.

Forgive Them:
When your girlfriend tells you that her salary is X when you know it is only Y; when she agrees that Brenda is a bear, and you find out later that she’s recently joined Brenda’s book club (the one you haven’t been invited to join), and when she laments her weight loss struggles in spite of her hard workouts (but you know her yoga pants have never actually seen a yoga studio), these are the exaggerations, the omissions and outright fabrications that I suggest you chalk up to conversation and the need to self-protect and fool ourselves.

Yep, forgive these transgressions. And forgiveness with these types of fibs is actually quite easy when you remember all the falsehoods that you’ve committed yourself.

“Guess what! While out on my daily run (exaggeration), I serendipitously bumped into Jeremy (fabrication – I know where he gets coffee) who asked me out. I’m planning to wear that dress you tried on in the mall. Oh did I forget to tell you I bought it too (omission).

Here again, while the occasional lie can be overlooked, if puffery and half-truths start to become the norm, perhaps it is time to start omitting this friend’s name from the party list.

Break these Bonds:
I, like many, many of you out there, know how important, special and wonderful a great friendship is, and I appreciate how devastating losing a friend can be for many reason, and because I understand how difficult it can be to make new friends as an adult. So it is with great thoughtfulness and restraint that I advise you to end a friendship when the lying becomes harmful.

If you find that a friend of yours has lied to you about an issue that causes you harm, embarrassment, or discomfort in any manner, I suggest that you gather all the information that you require, speak with your friend about it, and then evaluate the benefits of this friendship in your life.

If you no longer trust, feel support or loyalty from a friend, then perhaps it is time to limit contact and invest your time with other good folks. If trust is lost, it can be rebuilt, but do so slowly … and with your eyes wide open.

* * *
We are all guilty of the occasional fib here and the slight exaggeration there. These occurrences are honestly no big deal and most of the time can be easily forgiven and forgotten. But if you regularly suspect a friend of being dishonest, and wonder if they might have malicious intentions, then perhaps it is time to seek out some new friendships.

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