“Lying proved to be one of the worst coping mechanisms I’ve ever chosen,” says Jayson Blair. Blair is the infamous New York Times reporter who resigned his position in May 2003 after admitting he plagiarized and falsely reported stories during his nearly four-year tenure with the publication.
Dr. Christian F. Johnson, psychotherapist and founder of Wholistic Counseling & Wellness Alternative, a Phoenix-based counseling and wellness center, says that there’s often more to lying than just trying to deceive people. “Many people use lying as a means to avoid truths they find too difficult to admit or address,” she adds.
Blair says he lied to mask his lack of confidence in himself and feelings of inadequacy. “At the time, I felt that lying was the only way I could survive,” says the 31-year-old. He adds that an extremely stressful job, coupled with grueling hours, tight deadlines, and a high standard of performance in addition to his bipolar disorder all contributed to his decision to be dishonest. He recalls that the constant lying became burdensome and overwhelming: “My lying spiraled out of control, and just keeping up with all the lies was painful.”
“Although lying provides an easy out in the short-term, it comes with serious repercussions,” says Dr. Rhonne Sanderson, a Dallas–Fort Worth area licensed psychotherapist. He maintains that the fallout from lying can hurt others, ruin relationships, as well as rob the liar of integrity, credibility, confidence, and self-esteem. “Lying only exacerbates the real problem,” adds Sanderson.
In addition to his career woes, Blair’s personal relationships were affected by his actions; friends and family became distant, and interactions were strained. He admits that being caught in front of a national audience was the “wake-up call” he needed “The situation was difficult, but it forced me to deal with my issues,” says Blair, who sought help in the way of medical care, therapy, and counseling.
Unfortunately, some people lie for so long they eventually believe the lies they tell, sometimes even after they are exposed, says Sanderson. “They become caught in a delusional world where fact and fiction become blurred and their lying holds them captive,” he adds.
Valerie Burton, life coach and author of Why Not You: 28 Days to Authentic Confidence (WaterBrook Press; $13.99), maintains that being honest and authentic is a conscious choice. “All humans, no matter how good, have to make the decision to live honestly. It’s not automatic.” Even after receiving therapy in addition to other steps to get back on track, Blair admits he has to continuously guard against lying. He says he’s most prone to lie when he feels stressed, so he manages his schedule and workload by setting reasonable expectations. Burton says striving for authenticity at all times can be highly rewarding. She adds, “The truth is liberating, and embracing the courage to tell the truth in the face of challenges and adversity is empowering,”
Burton offers these tips for making the choice to live honestly easier:
- Acknowledge your own abilities and weaknesses and resist the urge to exaggerate.
- Face the