I had an interesting experience the other day. For a number of years I have occasionally hired a fellow to assist me on jobs such as painting, landscaping, etc. His skill set was limited, but he was very reliable and worked hard. He wasn’t the most mature fellow either, and sometimes he had trouble following directions, but an assistant who shows up reliably is golden. And sometimes I wondered if he had actually done what I asked him to do, which in retrospect I should have been more concerned about. Still, I spoke highly of him and got him a lot of work. We’ll call him Jeff.
So one day a few weeks ago I needed two assistants for a painting job, so I hired my old friend Cathy to help as well. This was the first time they had ever met. Well, Jeff was really smitten with Cathy, it was actually kind of funny to watch. At the end of the day I commented that I expected him to start doing cartwheels to impress her, it was that obvious. Cathy on the other hand was clearly not impressed, and grew increasingly uncomfortable as the day wore on. She’s usually pretty unconcerned about unwanted male attention, so by the end of the day I was wondering if he had made a crude pass at her or something similarly over the line. She said no, she hadn’t done that. She also said she didn’t want to work with Jeff again.
A few days later the truth came out, Cathy had discussed it with a close friend, who advised her to tell me what had transpired. What had transpired in brief was this, apparently in his efforts to impress her, Jeff had mocked me mercilessly all day. Verbally, sitting on his ass making jokes when he was supposed to be working, lying to me about what they had accomplished, making faces at me while my back was turned, etc. Cathy had been very uncomfortable with this for good reason, if Jeff was trying to make an impression on her, he succeeded. Just not the way he was hoping. Made an impression on me too, I docked his pay for the time he sat on his ass and fired him unceremoniously. He denied everything.
I found that interesting. I suspect he is going around telling people that “some bitch lied about me at work and got me fired.” I suspect that because he has told similar stories about how he lost other jobs. Getting fired was a regular event in his life, as one of his friends put it: “You know Jeff is about to get fired when he starts talking about how stupid his boss is.” In retrospect, I should have realized that he wouldn’t regard me in any higher light than he regarded his other bosses, and that it had been plainly obvious that he had lied to me on previous occasions about what he had done when I wasn’t present. And just in case it needs to be mentioned, I am sure Cathy was telling the truth. She has no history of making stuff up, and she couldn’t have made this up, it sadly sounded exactly like something Jeff would do.
Upon reflection I realized that I knew kids like Jeff when I was young. Kids who would lie with every other breath in an effort to impress people. I was a very naive kid, so I fell for all sorts of stuff. It wasn’t really until my twenties (and a close encounter with another person who lied every time they opened their mouth) that I really grasped that some people lie all the time. It’s a great short term strategy, but a terrible long term one. Jeff has never had a steady job or a steady girlfriend, now I know why.
What puzzles me is the extent to which people like Jeff believe their own lies. Or are confused about what a lie is. I honestly think that since I didn’t actually see Jeff’s transgressions, Jeff thinks that I am unjustly calling him a liar. I don’t think there’s any comprehension that what I saw with my own eyes is irrelevant to the accusations Cathy made. Nor is there the remotest guilt about his lies, they are such a part of his life I suspect that he couldn’t act differently if he tried. In the final analysis, kind of sad and pathetic.
Oh well. I did some research, and there’s been very little scientific investigation of lying. Jeff would be called a habitual liar, but probably not a pathological liar. He’s borderline though. For my own part I will have to be a bit more alert in the future, as I said, I ignored some bad signs in Jeff. I’m a great liar myself, but when I lie for purely selfish reasons (which is extremely rare,) I feel guilty as hell. And lying can so complicate one’s life, I try to live by my grandmother’s adage: “If you don’t lie, you don’t have to remember what you said.”
Have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image is public domain under Austrian copyright law, as the creator is long dead. It’s Baron von Münchhausen, one of the most famous liars in history. He basically campaigned in two wars, and upon his return told increasingly outrageous stories about what had transpired in his travels. Including travelling to the Moon for example. I am guessing he did it for the attention, since in his business and personal life apparently he was a pretty normal and honest man.)
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