Pants on Fire
According to Janet G. Woititz, in her book “Adult Children of Alcoholics,” the third trait shared by ACoA’s is to lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
Of the 13 traits, this is one of two that I least identify with. Sure, I lied by omission by not telling my story and keeping the trauma at home secret from the rest of the world. But it was NOT just as easy to tell the truth. It would have opened a whole new conversation I just didn’t have the maturity or capacity to have.
Throughout my life I have been well known for my honesty. Trust me when I say this was not always a positive trait—I would offer my honest assessment to anyone, whether they asked for it or not. My dad adhered to a brutal form of the truth. And I caught that brutal-honesty trait like a virus. The truth was not something to be sugar-coated, not something to be tempered or qualified. The truth was something you served scalding hot with no regard for the impact of it on the listener.
It has taken years, but I have learned to be more judicious with my words as I tell the truth. I tend to rely on humor an awful lot. I discovered decades ago that humor is a magical way to deliver truth. It doesn’t always work, of course, but it’s a creative way to frame the truth nugget for delivery.
I think the challenge for me was the black and white distinctions for truth. My childhood didn’t allow for the gray areas, so I shut them down. It made for ways of thinking that disallowed questioning. But I couldn’t stop the questions I had inside, the wondering, the comparisons. A constant voice inside me questioned the reality of everything. In college, I learned my constant questioning was really a form of critical thinking and, as a few English professors put it, “reading against the grain.”
I suppose the dishonesty comes in to play with regards to my own perceptions of myself. The lies I tell myself. The ones that take a LOT of assumption about how other people think about me. As I ponder this, I recall being unable to sleep several times during my career over something I said during the day and based on how my boss reacted, convinced myself that I had offended him and he was upset with me.
Time and again I offered a next-day apology and he would look at me with question marks in his eyes because he had NO idea what I was talking about. In fact, I cannot remember a single time he was actually upset with me. Those lies I told myself stole dozens of hours of sleep from me.
I choose every day to be honest. Most importantly, with myself. I’m noticing as I go through this process, I realize I am just as deserving of self-honesty as others are deserving my honesty. I’ve realized when the crazy-talk in my head is happening and I’m just annihilating myself with my self talk, that it is a good idea to STOP and REASSESS. Is this true? I mean, REALLY true? Are you a failure because you forgot an appointment? Is that what you would tell your best friend? What about your kids? Would you let someone talk to your kids like that?
A moment of reflection can sure make a lot of difference in the way we allow ourselves to talk to ourselves. I’m working on it. Join me!
I wish you peace.