When faced with a tough choice of telling a lie and saving face or telling the truth and facing a consequence, what do you choose to do?
Dr. Todd Mulliken, MS, LPCC is a counselor, author, and speaker on marriage and families. A favorite guest on Real Recovery, he helps us understand why people lie and how we can respond in love if we’re the offended, and how to stop lying if we’re the offender.
Lying can often put us in a position where we avoid conflict or consequence in the short-term, but ultimately find ourselves in relationships that have been ruined by our dishonesty.
However if we live in truth, we will feel the love and freedom that we can never have when dishonest. By telling the truth, we can know that we are loved, accepted, and approved by God, Todd explains, and if we have that confirmation from God then we don’t need any other kind of confirmation from anyone else.
So if living in truth frees us then why do we lie?
“One of the reasons we lie when we’re an addict is we’re afraid of the consequences.”
But those consequences here on earth can be triumphed by the approval of God for telling the truth.
“When we know that we are loved, and accepted, and approved by God, and get content in that, sometimes that can be the key for real recovery. God’s view of us hopefully can trump other people’s views.”
One of the best parts of only seeking God’s approval is also found in the fact that His view of us is unconditional love; not based on our performance.
No matter how many times you mess up, God will always be there for you and always be ready to give you His forgiveness and love.
By understanding and accepting that telling the truth grants us God’s approval, the only true approval we need, we then will find ourselves filled with confidence.
With that confidence then we can come to grips with our situation and start speaking truth, Todd says.
“It gives you… the confidence, in my experience and my belief, the contentment to just go ‘yeah, you know, I’m in trouble I am an addict.’ Or, you know, ‘I am married to an addict and I’ve been minimizing it for twenty five years,’ or ‘I’m married to an addict and gotta start speaking truth,’ and once I start speaking truth, honesty today prevents problems tomorrow.”
We may still fear the consequences and not want there to be problems, but if we speak the truth and have a problem today, then we prevent a newer, bigger problem from arising tomorrow. Additionally, we will find that we no longer have to carry the fear and worry of our lies.
What if our lies are caused not by fear of the consequence, but by fear of disappointing others?
Does that change our approach at all? Todd explains that these kinds of lies are typically spoken by people-pleasers who don’t want to let others down. In this case, we need to focus less on pleasing people and more on pleasing God.
Additionally, people-pleasers need to realize that if it ends in a conflict, it doesn’t mean that it was done wrong.
“When I address my spouse who is an addict, or when I confess that I have been cheating on my spouse for five years, or I have been a cocaine addict for three years, or whatever we’re confessing and getting out of the lies, it’s OK that it’s going to cause a conflict. God is going to heal over time.”
Regardless of our motivation behind our lies, we still must face the fact that lying binds us to sin and is an act against God. Whether they’re outward, manipulative lies to avoid consequences of our actions, or people-pleasing lies to ourselves or those around us to avoid conflict, lying to try and save ourselves today will eventually always cause problems in the future.
But when we are living out the truth, breathing out the lies, and having honest conversations with those around us, then we will find that it eliminates problems from the future and that we are free.