Sex addicts lie. Men that struggle with pornography, strip clubs or prostitutes lie. Sometimes those lies are about major things, where telling the truth in the moment would result in major consequences. So the lie is to avoid consequences. Often though, once the habit of lying is well honed, we’ll begin to lie about utterly inconsequential things. On one occasion I lied about what percentage milk I bought. On the way home from the grocery store I realized I had grabbed a gallon of 1%, while Shelley had asked for 2%. I knew she would be disappointed and would ask what happened. When the questions came, I swore up and down that I purchased 2% when what I brought home was 1%. I couldn’t admit I had made a mistake and picked the wrong gallon. So I insisted it wasn’t my fault, that they messed up and stocked this gallon in the wrong rack.
In my office, I hear every week about a lie a client has told. They come in so many forms, from commission to omission. Here are few recent ones:
➢ “I didn’t do a double-take” when clearly the wife saw him do it.
➢ “I can’t think of anything else to disclose”. Then a couple days later he owns that he was hiding something.
➢ “Before we were married I had sex with 2 women”. After the fact he admits they were prostitutes, not just any women.
Why lie like this? Most wives ask that question, followed by a statement like “its not that hard to just tell the truth!” Let me offer a couple of explanations, NOT EXCUSES, for why we lie.
First, from a biblical perspective, we know its in our nature. We’re sinners, bent towards dishonesty. The first moment of accountability, when God confronted Adam about his lack of leadership and the decision to eat from the tree, was met with deception. If you read the account of God confronting the Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8-13) notice that of the 3 direct questions God asks, he only answers 1 of them straightforward. It sounds a lot like a wife confronting a husband!
God: Where are you?
Adam: I hid. (he doesn’t say where he is)
God: Who told you you were naked? And did you eat from the tree?
Adam: She made me do it. And yeah I ate. (he only answers part 2)
By the way, I think its important to note that Adam also blame-shifted, pointing the finger at both God and his wife. Avoiding and blame-shifting are 2 techniques that perpetuate a context within which we will lie. The proverbial apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree for many of us!
A second reason men who are sexually addicted lie is because they are acting like children. For some men, they are developmentally delayed in their capacity to own their wrongdoing and accept responsibility for the consequences. Like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie-jar, he’ll shift, shade and manipulate to lessen the fallout and “stay out of trouble”. Dealing with a wife’s hurt, disappointment, and/or anger is unbearable. Think about it in kid terms; does an 11 year old have the capacity or faculties to receive, process and contain an adults’ emotions? No. Further, I hear many wives say they see their husband act juvenile when she gets angry with him. They’re right! Once that button, whatever it may be, gets pushed you’re no longer dealing with the adult. You’re dealing with a petulant middle-schooler. I’ve literally seen an argument degenerate into “I know you are but what am I” type retaliation by a husband.
Men report it too; feeling childish when they respond to their wives’ hurt. I used to feel it. Shelley would be yelling, cursing, pointing her finger at me and I’d pop off some comment beginning with “oh yeah, well…” or “well at least I…” (cue the sound of a second grader, avoiding, blame shifting and lying). Finally, I would submit men lie to self-preserve relative to the 3I’s. I talk a lot about Insignificance, Incompetence and Impotence because I believe these to be so central to our sin nature. When we’ve behaved in way that taps into these 3 I’s, or someone has behaved towards us in a way that taps into them, self preservation kicks in. Unless we’re keenly aware of it, we’ll begin to operate with the goal of first putting a stop to whatever is causing the pain, then we’ll move towards offsetting the pain and medicating. Lying is usually a tactic to stop the pain. Hint: it only creates more pain.
Case in point- the milk situation. The truth was that I felt incompetent that I couldn’t even get the right milk. In my head the shame message went like this: “you’ve crushed her by being unfaithful, the least you could do is get what she asked for from the grocery store. You idiot!” By calling attention to and questioning how I got the wrong percentage wasn’t her attacking me. But it sure felt like it. Seemed like she wanted to just rub in how lame and incompetent I was. As if she wanted me to hurt, to confirm I’m an idiot. So, I defended myself, to stop feeling the shame. To stop feeling incompetent. I blamed it on the grocery store so they would look like the idiots. Rather than own my mistake (which I get a lot of practice at) I lied. I didn’t mean to hurt her more. But I did. It wasn’t to further strain our relationship. But it did. It wasn’t to make her feel disrespected or to insult her as stupid or gullible. Survey says….yep, I did though.
In fact, it had nothing to do with her and everything to do with me. Rather than feel like the kid in trouble for forgetting things and disappointing his parents I wanted the pain to stop. I didn’t know how to own my junk and face the consequences. And in this example there would have been little to no consequence; Shelley probably would’ve brushed it off and enjoyed the 1%.
If I was willing to lie to self-preserve in a silly situation where I perceived the risk of feeling the 3I’s (the milk), how much more in situations where I KNOW I’ll feel the 3I’s (like the truth about an affair or porn use).
One more thing, then we’ll get to a couple practical steps. In a conversation about lying, I would be remiss if not to address the reality of lying to oneself. Before we lie to those around us, including God, we first lie to ourselves. Its pretty sick the mental gymnastics we’ll go through to convince ourselves that we’re okay. In cartoon-like Angel vs. Devil fashion, we’ll debate and cross-examine trying to find the loophole that gets us off the hook. We usually end up with a really rational lie:
➢ This time was the last time.
➢ This isn’t technically something I need to disclose.
➢ It was only ______, not ________.
➢ She would overreact so I’ll save us both the trouble.
➢ I’m protecting her by not telling her.
➢ At least what I’m doing isn’t as bad as [some other person or some other sin].
Lying to ourselves is, yet again, a tool of self-preservation. It is living in denial. It can be a function of perfectionism, fearing failure, or even spiritual condemnation and judgment. Whatever drives it, the end result is to insulate ourselves from feeling more shame, more like a monster or pervert and from feeling like a disappointment.
So what do we do?
First, understand that lying doesn’t stop over night. A longstanding sinful pattern, paired with a developmental delay, will be a process to reverse. Think of what it takes to get a car that is moving forward to start moving backwards. You have to slow down the momentum before you can actually stop, then shift gears, then slowly get going the other direction until you get momentum. Such is the case here. The lying usually slows down before it stops. [I’m not justifying or excusing or giving an out here, just explaining it] By slowing down I mean there will be a lie or an omission, then a couple days later he’ll come disclose it. This versus a wife finding it by her sleuth skills weeks or months later. He’ll lie in a conversation and then pause, twitch, freak out a little bit, then say “okay, I need to be honest here. I just lied. Let me make sure I’m telling the truth…” So it moves from lying until caught, lying then owning later, lying and owning it in the moment, to wanting to lie and dancing around it, to finally not lying. It is, developmentally, the process of the kid growing up.
Second, we create a culture of honesty. By this I mean we engage with our wives and accountability partners to practice telling the truth about all areas of life. Money, diet, how we spend our time, what we say, how we act, etc. Being accountable for my life via the T-30 journal helped put me on the fast track to truth telling. Being accountable, to the half hour, for how I spent my time caused me to invest my time in a way I wanted to tell about it. Put yourself on the hook to account for (i.e, tell the truth about) specific areas of your life.
Finally, go back over specific seasons of your life and identify where you lied by commission or omission. Write all these situations and circumstances down. Then write down the truth about each of them. Once you’re done sit down with your accountability partners and go through them. Maybe it was when you were a teenager, or during college, or just last year. To identify lies, own them, then tell the truth about them can be healing in itself. Biblically we know that confession is a steppingstone to healing.
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