Lying to Dementia Folks is Okay?
On Linked In, Claire Picton, London England posts, “Everyone lies to other people, whether they have dementia or not. No one tells the truth 100% of the time.”
Not an uncommon phrase to which most of us subscribe, at least sometimes, especially when we are defending our own actions. Me included. When I was a lawyer, before the dementia days, I used to joke with friends that I lied more before nine in the morning that most people do in…oh, 36 hours? It was a weapon I concealed carried ‘to advance the courses of the unrepresented in their fight against the lies of the oppressor’ – whoever they might be. I would lie with prideful arrogance that I could fool whomever in the name of righteous expediency and social warfare. Trial lawyer and local politician were my professions, lying was my cash receipts. No harm, just a lie combating someone else’s lie. What’s a man to do? And of course, the behavior didn’t spread to my personal relationships. Any, if they did, they were – you know – white (interesting description) lies that didn’t hurt anyone and, if truth be told, probably relieved them of the pain truth often carries.
Until the lies were used in my self-interest as a dude living with dementia – Class of 2014, Vascular College, my supposed self-interest, my self-interest as defined by someone not myself. Self-interest which actually was not my self- interest at all, but the self-interest of someone else – caregiver- personal or professional- the medical community of neurologists and general practitioners, the spiritual community, the regulating community, especially in the area of nursing homes, memory units, dementia communities, hospitals, and the beloved Divisions of Motor Vehicles, wherever they may be located.
It sucks being on the receiving end of a lie – especially when you’ve got dementia, let me say that we dementia dudes and dudettes use the L weapon too – when they play the ‘I don’t remember’ card when they actually do recall. Hey, though, I might be the only dementia dude that has done this. It’s easy because normal people think we probably are not ‘cognitively aware enough’ to pull off the heist. Read – too dumb to lie. (But I digress, my mistake…sorry for the confessions, I’m having a bad day. It’s okay to feel sorry for me, sometimes.)
“But, there are times” you conscience whispers, “where a little white lie is a good thing. Right….like in warms or a hostage stand off, or when someone is on their death bed?”
These examples show that whether its okay to lie often puts to use, the lie that justifies the lie. The lie that says you have a choice – to lie or not to lie. Wrong. The choice is to lie, not lie, or to say nothing, which assumes you are not king of the universe responsible for the happiness of the world.
The second lies that liars use is if one’s intent is pretty okay, then what the harm. What’s the harm of a white lie…everyone does it. My dad used to say “if everyone jumps off the cliff, does that mean you have to too?”
My premise – lying pollutes my soul. God hates lying – it’s actually one of the Old Testament commandments. And, to treat your neighbor as you would like to be treated, is relevant here, right? Maybe you like to be lied to, but the depth of that dysfunction is so deep it’s scary even to look over the edge.
Okay. Catch your breath. And me, mine.
Just some sayings about lies while you grab some water:
The verse that described (describes) me…”Part of you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” (James 3:14)
“ The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.” (21:6 Proverbs)
“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him… haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows distort among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
“Stop lying to each other. Tell the truth, for we are parts of each other and when we lie to each other, we are hurting ourselves.” (Ephesians 4:25)
So I was feeling pretty righteous. Reminding myself that lying is a big thing to God. So why is that , do you suppose? I go the three biggest liars I have ever met – They operated similarly – One was a student, popular, but could read only a tad until later. He was ashamed. He had developed reading avoidance skills (lying) that were truly hall of fame value. He had a beautiful smile, was charming,
verbally dexterous. He could look you dead in the face and you would totally believe his lie/excuse, even though you knew of his reputation (not good news for liars) and put yourself on alert. The face was a perfect picture of naive honesty almost child-like. The tone of voice matched the words, and those words come in a steady stream of matter-of-factness.
The second person was a thief and a liar. You could actually see her steal and she would deny or excuse it so well that despite what your eyes, saw, you would believe her cupcake self. She was magnificent, too. In times of confrontation, she could lie to you, a denial, and then use the lie as a momentum and accuse you of a related injustice and poof! the lie was gone. Never apologize, always justify.
The third was of a sneaky variety. Thinking hard and days ahead, his plots were packed with lies. Sophisticated, the he would call student A to warn him that B was bringing a weapon to school tomorrow to threaten A. Then he would call B and tell him A was bringing a weapon and he should be ready. And then deny, credibly, the whole ugly saga when both A and B recited the story independently. He loved it.
And so did I, do I. It made me seem tougher and crazier than I was. Or I thought it did. The physical challenge in being the disciplinarian and principal was respect. I couldn’t fight, but I could crack, lie, troll the venom out of the best. This behavior leaked in to my kids. I would see my lie mode in them later and it would make me ashamed and nauseous.
But, the biggest reason I hated the expert liars was that I couldn’t discern it. As the headmaster, I had to make credibility judgements 100 times a day. When I couldn’t figure out the master liars it would cost me in time, energy, effectiveness. My spirit would be damaged, my soul would be bruised.
I could deal with institutions lying – the best police were the best liars in the courtroom, the Department of Education in its phony expertise.
I could deal with authority figures lying – expected it. But now in 2018, it’s different…lying is expected, accepted , but also glorified. The bigger lie told with an exclamation point, the better leader (con artist) you are. And with all the lies of both experts and institutions when one slipped by, it emboldened the organization or dude to continue and build on it. My dad used to say when you were actually
caught in a lie, no one believed you afterwards. Now it has grown to – everyone lies, mine is bigger than yours.
The dynamics are much the same in the dementia world. Lying is encouraged if it keeps the dementia person happy. Do we really think that a lie cannot be discerned sometimes. And when it is a lifetime of trust, can be destroyed in one convenient lie to ‘protect’ us. Mrs. Moon would ask me repeatedly whether I knew her husband, George who was upstairs resting. Telling the truth – oh Mrs. Moon, George is dead and there is no second floor here in the nursing home.
That’s truth in cruelty. Yes, Mrs. Moon, it seems as if I’ve known about him for some time. Tell me about him – truth in love.
Yes, we have difficulty reading the smiling liars – but I did before as well. But when one hits my spirit, and not confessed nor repeated, I must assume. I do not have a partner that I can count on for the journey ahead. So it sucks for me. For the liar, no relationship of truth and trust is built, only one of manipulation and shortcuts. You become a diaper changer and a butt cleaner. Without love you can’t sustain the core. It’s too tiring, too personal, too uncomfortable, too gross.
Please don’t lie. Try hard. I will too. I pray that God hears my confession, strengthens me when the temptation comes wit the ‘everyone does it’ justification.
Some thoughts to leave you with:
The most common lie is that one lies to himself; lying to other sis relatively an exception. Friedrich Nietzsche
If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. Mark Twain
I’m not upset that you lied to me. I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you. Friedrich Nietzsche
People think that a liar gains a victory over his victim. What I’ve learned is that a lie is an act of self-abdication, …..condemning oneself from then on to faking the sort of reality that person’s view requires to be faked…The man who lies to the world, is the world’s slave from then on…There are no white lies, there is only the blackest of destruction, and a white lie is the blackest of all. Ayn Rand
Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies. Dorothy Allison
The truly scary thing about undiscovered lies is that they have a greater capacity to diminish us than exposed ones. They erode our strength, our self- esteem, our very foundation. Cheryl Hughes
There is beauty in truth, even if it’s painful. Those who lie, twist life so that it looks tasty to the lazy, brilliant to the ignorant, and powerful to the weak. But lies only strengthen our defects. They don’t teach anything, help anything, fix anything or cure anything. Nor do they develop one’s character, one’s mind, one’s heart, or one’s soul. José N. Harris
One lie has the power to tarnish a thousand truths. Al David
When a man is penalized for honesty, he learns to lie. Criss Jami
Over time, any deception destroys intimacy, and without intimacy, couples cannot have true and lasting love. Bonnie Eaker Weil
Those who are capable of tyranny are capable of perjury to sustain it. Lysander Spooner
She looks honestly upset, but then, I’ve learned I can’t read her. The problem with a really excellent liar is that you just have to assume they’re always lying. Holly Black
Once you take to the habit of deception, every new lie comes that much easier. Carolyn Kettlewell
The worst kind of lie – the kind shrouded in good intentions. The kind cowards use to justify their weakness. Renee Ahdieh
What harm does lying cause – one loses people’s trust. And once one loses trust, he becomes worthless. Dada Bhagwan