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A Little White Lie Never Hurt… Or Did It?

When Walt started telling stories, even his close friends sometimes rolled their eyes. No matter what the topic of conversation was, Walt claimed to know something about it. He always had to top other people’s stories. If his tales could be believed, Walt had met more famous people, solved more difficult problems, made more clever investments, and succeeded in more business ventures than ought to be possible in one person’s lifetime.

It seemed just a little odd that Walt was spending his retirement years in a mobile home park, working as a part-time janitor.

Except, of course, there was nothing odd about it, because very few of Walt’s stories were true. The codependent pattern he had developed to hide his fears and his belief that he wasn’t good enough was lying. His constant need to impress people was his attempt to feel good enough.

Most of us aren’t quite as obvious about it as Walt, but all of us who have learned codependent patterns have learned to lie. As children, when we are told that we are not scared or that there is nothing to cry about, we are being taught to hide our true feelings. When we shut down our true feelings, we’re typically rewarded with comments like, “That’s a good boy/girl,” “What a cute smile,” or “You’re so strong for not crying.” This teaches us to lie.

Most of us aren’t consciously aware that we are lying because the feelings are deep in the subconscious, hidden even from ourselves. Yet being taught to hide our true feelings creates a foundation for our lives that is built on lies. Dishonesty is an inherent part of codependency.

This lying often takes subtle forms. We lie when we pretend to agree with opinions we don’t support because we are afraid to say what we really believe. We lie when we try to look good on the outside so people won’t see how fearful or worthless we may feel on the inside. We lie when we pretend things are okay when they are not. We lie when we cover up for alcoholics, abusers, or other family members whose codependency is creating pain for themselves and others. We lie when we spend our lives trying to be the person we think other people need us to be. We lie when we hold back our tears that want to come out.

Above all, we lie to ourselves when we accept the negative messages about ourselves that have taught us to believe we are worthless.