Jennifer Jade Merrihue
YOU GET TO CHOOSE WHO YOU’RE HONEST WITH
Updated: Feb 19, 2022
I used to be a really good liar.
I used to think this was an amazing tool in my kit. To survive. To not get in trouble. To protect others from feeling let down by me.
To protect my friends from being sad if I couldn’t hang out with them, or if I didn’t feel like it.
To protect my friends if I preferred to hang out with someone else that day.
I didn’t want them to feel like I didn’t love them enough.
Or to believe that I loved someone else more than I loved them.
I was 15.
One day, I was on the phone with a friend of mine, a friend who was having a really hard time. Another friend called, one that had plans to come over and hang out. I said in a spritely manner, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of this”. I hung up the phone and talked to friend #2. I told her my mom wouldn’t let me hang out today and let’s rain check. She said ok and I quickly dialed my distressed friend.
I told her what I’d just done, hoping that she would feel loved and a little happier and supported during this hard time.
But instead she was withdrawn and disdainful. “How am I supposed to know you don’t do that to me when we are supposed to hang out?”, she said.
We hung up quickly after, I’d clearly made things worse. And for the foreseeable future she did not trust me whenever I changed plans on her.
This experience was a hard lesson.
Because of the circumstances I thought it was understandable + justifiable to use my lying tool. But for my friend, who did not have access to my inner dialogue, this was evidence that I could at any point lie to her. That I could not be trusted.
This began an entire new relationship to lying. I had previously believed that the lying tool was justified if it was for a good cause. Now it seemed to mean I couldn’t be trusted and was a bad friend, the opposite of my intention.
What I was living was a life where I didn’t take ownership of what I wanted, of my time, of what I did with it.
I understood “me” as something everyone had a right to demand. Demand and expect I do things, show up to things, show up in the way they preferred.
Which led me to believe I couldn’t just say…
“Hey, actually I want to hang out with so-and-so because they are having a hard time”
… or god-forbid,
“I’m not in the mood”…and have people in my life respect my decision, even if they didn’t like it.
I understood me owning my time in whatever way I wanted, as something selfish and wrong, putting my needs ahead of others as something horrible and greedy. I understood my time as something that directly communicated to others how much I loved them. I held myself accountable to the impossible standards of - “If you love someone you are there for them 100% of the time”. This was all a part of my commitment to love people unconditionally.
But love, has to be conditional.
If your romantic partner murders your best friend, you’re probably justified in not loving them anymore.
But I didn’t understand that at that time. I enabled A LOT of people in my life to demand my presence, attention, energy, love. People who then would turn against each other competitively and use guilt to get what they needed out of our relationship. I didn’t use what I wanted to do in any given moment to guide how I spent my time, I used who ever needed me the most to dictate what I did with my time.
It did make for a very “good” life on paper. I could sleep easy that I was a “good” person.
So when my friend called me out in lying, and it no longer fit my “good person” standards. I was conflicted.
I no longer had access to this very convenient tool. Using it now made me a “bad” person. A “bad” friend.
The next decade of my obsession with being a good and useful human being became more tortured at that point.
I couldn’t get anyone to tell me directly when it was appropriate to share truth and when it wasn’t. But when I told the truth, most of the time it was taken so badly by the people I loved the most. I thought I must’ve been doing SOMETHING wrong. And whoever I asked teachers, authority figures, all would say to always be honest.
So I’d try to be honest all the time. But then people would get angry when I changed plans, they would lash out, stop being my friend.
Which broke my heart.
Family thought I didn’t care about them if I chose to do other things like not hanging out with them.
Which broke my heart.
Boyfriends thought I didn’t love them, because I didn’t prioritize them over others, including my family.
Which broke my heart.
At the time all I was understanding by these new reactions form people was that telling the truth is awful, breaks my heart, and has people I love doubt whether I love them or not.
I was getting a loud and constant message that truth hurts people, that I have to be honest to be trusted, that I am not enough, that no matter how hard I try to love everyone, someone will think I don’t love them. I was cultivating a whole lot of not-enoughness.
Are you exhausted yet? I think back now and I’m EXHAUSTED by my codependent historical narrative. I want to take that girl, put her in a bikini with a margarita, drop her on a beach, and tell her to have a childhood.
What I didn’t understand, after I started telling everyone the truth, is that the resistance I was experiencing from those around me was a form of recalibration.
I had attracted, enabled, and actively created relationships where my time was not mine. Where people had a right to expect me to be there for them over everyone else. Where it was acceptable to be angry at me if I needed to take care of myself or if I wanted to do something else. I had essentially created a life without self-respect and boundaries. And my lack of self-respect and boundaries, taught everyone around me to treat me in the exact same way.
So when I suddenly attempted to have boundaries and truthfully communicate them to my loved ones, I was smashing right up against the expectations I had allowed them to have. I had cultivated relationships where my time, attention, love, and physical presence was theirs to request on demand. So when I started saying “I want to do this other thing” or “I just don’t feel like it”, I would get resistance from people who didn’t understand the sudden unavailability.
This caused me to isolate a little. Instead of lying, I would just disappear. Not respond to people until I felt able to hold the heart break of hearing how I’d let them down and hurt them.
I kept a close few friends. But even with them there was a recalculation period where my absence was not understood. I was flaky and I didn’t respond to many calls or texts. At this point, I was avoiding the heart crushing reality that if I acknowledged all the requests, I would have to choose, and hurt someone.
I lost quite a few friends doing this. Which though lonely, helped lessen the pressure I was putting on myself to be a perfect human and perfect friend. Some friends, the ones I still consider family, are still in my life today. They patiently waited for me to understand and build boundaries, even if it took me years. And in many ways, they saved my life and taught me there was hope. They loved me whether I was acting like a good human or a wreck. But it took years for me to see the evidence that I could build boundaries and still be loved.
That friend that called me out for lying, is one of those friends. Who pointed out my lying, but was patient with me in my own growth.
I share this story because it took me over a decade to understand boundaries.
Before I was able to really put boundaries in place, I actually swung to the opposite side of the pendulum. Instead of the lying tool, I was committed to telling everyone the truth. Without really asking myself if I wanted to, if I trusted this person, if I trusted this person to respect whatever I was sharing.
My obsession with being a good person and friend meant I kept bull-dozing past my intuition and telling people my truth even when they showed me time and time again that they were not able to hold it with love, respect, and care. I just thought my job was to show up and tell the truth. But now, I know that’s not the case.
I took the Landmark forum a few years ago. It was amazing, and drastically contributed to my having no boundaries and expressing my truth all over the place. It’s an amazing program, so intense, with immediate results. But I can honestly say that even though I did 5 of their programs, I needed the opposite. I needed someone to tell me the following:
NO. Is a full sentence.
You do not owe anyone your truth.
You do not have to tell your truth to people who throw it in your face or hit you with it.
Lying is a huge waste of your time and energy.
You are allowed to not explain yourself.
You are allowed to change your mind.
You are allowed to simply not feel like doing things anymore.
What you want matters. It’s as simple as that.
If your whole body is a no. You do not have to do it.
I won’t go into the details of landmark as I still recommend people do it. But I will say that it does not encourage you to not do something because you don’t feel like it. It tells you to blow past your feelings for results, which can be very useful. But I needed to learn the opposite.
I needed to learn that feelings actually mattered. That my physical body was a VERY useful tool for me to understand when a boundary of mine was being crossed by me or others.
I needed to learn that feelings are not weakness, they are actually communications from the compilation of your past, your present, your body, your beliefs, your trauma, your understanding of life. Denying them is a cheap and stupid and damaging way to manipulate yourself into the immediate gratification of getting a task done.
Manipulating yourself, like lying, can also be a powerful tool. When?
You probably don’t want to do taxes. And you may have to bribe yourself to do them. But it’s a conscious choice to do so.
Lying can still be a powerful tool. When?
Lying to a 5 year old about your suspicions that their dad is sleeping with the babysitter, is justified in my book.
There is a time and place for every tool in the human shed. And here’s the lesson I wish I would have learned.
IT’S UP TO YOU WHEN YOU USE THEM.
I eventually chose to stop lying because lying is was a waste of my long term energy. With no proof of effective positive return. It doesn’t feel good to me. And it makes me feel bad about myself and the people around me.
It alienated me internally. Though people felt loved in my life. They didn’t know just how unloved I felt. How I struggled with not feeling like enough- to the extent that I would lie just to get a day off from the responsibilities I would impose on myself AS A TEENAGER. It robbed them of the opportunity to show me that I can change my mind, mess up, not show up, and still deserved to be loved.
Now, when I find myself wanting to lie, I slow down and analyze the situation. What part of me feels like I don’t get to own this choice? What part of me believes that if I tell the truth something terrible will happen? Then I look at the reasons I want to lie and I validate them and see if there are other ways around supporting whatever is in the way of me confidently telling the truth.
Then I look at the person I have the urge to lie to and ask myself why I am struggling with this person in particular.
Sometimes people are not going to be responsible with your truth.
Sometimes they will throw them in your face, use it against you in the future, and claim you don’t love them. To those people, I strongly advise you don’t keep offering your vulnerable most tender truths to, until they have shown you they can be responsible with them. You don’t have to lie to them to avoid getting hurt, you can just tell them the pre-truth:
“Last time I opened up to you, I felt like you invalidated what I shared with you and used it against me later. I’m not comfortable sharing what I’m going through currently with you now.”
Is it hard? It can be at times. But what I found is that people actually listen to these adjustments if they care about you and want to do the work to be in your life. And those who don’t want to do the work, probably require a second look as to why you think they should be in your life.
It took a lot of coaching for me to be brave enough to look at my relationships in that light. Conditionally. It felt like a part of me was dying. It felt like I was being selfish and greedy and evil. But I have to say, on the other side of this mission- my life is so peaceful, for the first time ever. My friends and family may be bummed if I can’t go to things or show up for them but they are kind and supportive as well.
When you’re used to a life with no boundaries, the quality of life with boundaries is unimaginable. I didn’t know this peace and abundance of time is what could result from saying “no” more.
The work is worth it!
For an opportunity to work together, connect with me...
What are you dealing with? What do you want? What would you most like to better in your life?