If you have kids, then you know that sometimes they lie. Little white lies to get out of getting in trouble, mostly. Harmless stuff. And after a while they grow out of it, because they learn that mothers Know Everything and there’s just no sense in lying.
Then there comes a stage where you know they’re lying, they know you know they’re lying, but neither of you says anything about it. The lie is allowed to stand, but both of you know that something has shifted in your relationship and perhaps a teeny bit of trust has been betrayed. But still, mostly harmless.
And then, there is Lance Armstrong.
I had read somewhere that there are people in this world – grownups – who will lie. I’d heard of the term “compulsive liar” but I have never had first-hand experience of any of these kinds of people. Yes, I’ve been told stories that seem a little too outrageous to be true, but that was also pretty harmless. But compulsive lying is a whole different thing, and the pathology is fascinating.
A compulsive liar might start with just a small lie. On the scale of 1 to 10, it might be a 2. A ’2′ is the kind of lie that will get you out of having to go to a meeting that you didn’t really need to be at. Getting out of lunch with the in-laws might require a ’4′. After telling a ’5′ you might need to add a few 1s and 2s to cover your tracks. You might throw in a 7 just to really make your point.
And here’s where normal people and compulsive liars differ. A normal person, with a regularly-tuned moral compass, would feel awkward about telling so may lies. And if things started to unravel, they might back down and even confess to having stretched the truth a little. For what it’s worth, in my experience, if someone owns up to a wrongdoing like this then I will immediately forgive and forget. I think most people would.
A compulsive liar, on the other hand, will just keep telling lies to cover up the early ones. All of a sudden they will make extraordinary claims, bold assertions, and accusations of their own, to cover up the fact that they might be lying. And here’s the bit that really makes my head spin: when they tell another lie, it makes them feel calm, it brings them relief. It makes the situation worse, it buries them even deeper, but they feel that they have avoided being caught and that is comforting to them.
And this is where Lance Armstrong is suddenly the undisputed king of Compulsive Liars. He has looked investigators, cycling officials and his millions of fans in the eyes and LIED. The arrogance is astonishing. He is clearly very relaxed, very comfortable with lying on a grand scale.
And if they are challenged, if someone accuses them of lying? A compulsive liar simply will not back down. They might go quiet for a while (or, like Lance, agree to ‘step down’ or ‘withdraw’ so that he doesn’t have to face his accusers). Or they will just keep denying it, until they are red in the face, and until you stop talking to them. And really, what can you do with someone like that?
I remember catching one of the kids with the wrappers of chocolate bars stuffed in their pockets. I asked them if they had taken those from the cupboard, if they had climbed up on the stool to reach them. No, they said. No, they would never do such a thing. Why, to do such a thing would surely be extremely naughty and that’s not the kind of kid they are.
Lance Armstrong is never, ever going to own up to what has happened, to what he has been accused of. Even if somebody is able to lay some kind of charge on him, he will go down maintaining his innocence. He’s lied so many times about it now that he actually believes his own story.
He’s arrogant and utterly pathetic, all at the same time. Shame on him.