It’s Narcissist Friday!
Narcissists lie. It comes as naturally to them as breathing. If you don’t understand this, you will struggle.
I remember many years ago, when I was in college, overhearing a conversation between a friend and his girlfriend on the phone. She was “back home” and he used our phone to call (yeah, the olden days). I wasn’t eavesdropping and just heard a small part of the conversation where he was telling her the grades he had received. The only problem was that I knew the truth about his grades. They were not anywhere close to what he was telling her.
Ever since that day, I have wondered what it would have been like to begin a life-long relationship based on lies. Some of you know all too well. At first the stories are impressive, but as you begin to learn more of the truth you begin to wonder. Pretty soon you don’t know what was true and what was not.
I know a man who didn’t tell his “second” wife that she was really the third. She didn’t find out until his daughter contacted him, a daughter she knew nothing about. I know a man who caused his wife to miscarry through physical abuse. He stood in front of her and the church leadership and denied anything ever happened. I know a man who sold a piece of machinery to two different people then left town. When the two men went to pick up the one piece of machinery, they learned the truth.
In each of these cases, the victims were so shocked at the audacity and the pain that they did nothing. The liar went merrily on his way without real consequence.
For most of us, the lies of the narcissist are so foreign to the way we think and live that the shock and confusion numb us in our response. We simply cannot play at that level. The narcissist is so far beyond anything we can handle by simple confrontation.
You see, when most people lie, we can point out the truth and end it. They might admit the lie, call it a mistake, or just shut up; but the process ends. It doesn’t end with the narcissist. If you catch the narcissist in a lie, he/she will simply tell another lie to cover it. Or argue with the truth. Or accuse you of something. Or attack you with such venom that you back away terrified. It doesn’t just end.
Lying is part of who the narcissist is. He lies about his accomplishments. He lies about his plans. He lies about the obstacles in his way. He lies about what he is doing and what he has done and what he will do. Once the truth starts to unfold, the ground under you disappears and you feel yourself falling into a pit of deception. That’s what life with the narcissist can be.
I have known narcissists who will choose a lie when the truth would do just as well. The lie comes easier than the truth. People have told me stories of how the lies were totally unnecessary, but came anyway. It seems to me that the bottom line for some narcissists is that the risk of the truth is so great that lies are always better. And, when the narcissist is finally gone, the whole thing seems like a bad dream because so much of it was never real.
I suppose I should make it clear that I am not saying all narcissists lie. Some deceive and hide in other ways. But this is such a common thread, that anyone in a relationship with a narcissist should be on guard. This is one of the most consistent behaviors noted among those who have narcissistic characteristics.
There are reasons narcissists lie. Remember that the narcissist is hiding, frightened that someone will know too much and be able to control. Remember also that no person really exists to the narcissist. Would you worry about a lie told to a chair or a hammer? If the person you are talking with is not a person like you are, then lying is easy. (If you are a spouse, that is a grim and painful thing to understand.) And a lie gives the liar power. As long as the truth is hidden, there is a sense of control that is maintained. That’s why narcissists will sometimes lie just to see if they can get by with it.
So how do you stop the narcissist from lying? You don’t. You might be able to make certain lies unprofitable but I don’t think you or any counselor can convince a narcissist to stop lying. (Yes, I believe God could still change any heart, but it would take a miracle.) If you are in the beginning stages of a narcissistic relationship, you might as well face the truth now. The lies will be part of your life together.
But you can decide not to take the lies personally or to trust the narcissist. I know that’s sad, but once you understand what the real battle is, you have an advantage. Understand that this is very natural for the narcissist and don’t let your foundation rest on trusting him.
From my perspective, only the love of the Lord is trustworthy. Narcissists are part of our world, even a reflection of the brokenness of the world, and we have to find the foundation for our lives in Someone else. Politicians, bosses, friends, family, even spouses sometimes use lying to get what they want. But there is One who does not deceive, whose love is real.