Two weekends ago my son was with his narcissistic father. When my son came home he told me he had not worked either of the 2 shifts he’d been scheduled for at his job. Needless to say he was subsequently fired.
Today he started a new job. He is training tonight and tomorrow, and his first real shift will be Friday night – a night he is again with his dad. I sent an email to the dad and said:
I don’t know what [our son] said to you about his market shifts the last weekend he was with you. I imagine he told you he wasn’t scheduled, because he wanted to hang out with friends. I don’t want that to happen with [the new job]. If he has no job this summer he’s going to get into all sorts of trouble.
How do you think we should handle this?
Here’s what he wrote back:
I will talk to [our son] and see how much he misled and how much he outright lied. I’ll let you know what I find out.
If you are hearing far away screaming, it is me.
Rather than write back “you stupid, narcissistic dickwad, please don’t teach our son that there is a difference between lying and misleading, and that misleading is ok”. Because that is what he plans to do.
How do I know? I know because I spent 25 years on the receiving end of “misleading” statements. “Misleading” is one of the many ways narcissists justify treating people badly, while making sure they get what they want.
In our marriage my ex often “misled” me regarding his work schedule. I would ask, as he was leaving in the morning, what time he would be home from work. He would not answer. He would then leave work early and go out with his girlfriend du jour. If I were to catch him, he’d say he hadn’t told me he was working late, and it was my fault for assuming that was the case. We’d never get around to discussing the adultery, as we were too busy arguing the semantics of whether or not he’d lied by omission.
I googled “lie versus misled” and found some really interesting answers. Most answers involved politics. The writers suggested that a politician “misleading” people is not only often warranted, but most often excusable. This is one of the many reasons I don’t engage in politics. If a segment of our population has been given a bye on honesty……well, I don’t want to be involved with them.
In the posts that did not address politicians there were a few writers who suggested there is a difference, and one is less abhorrent than the other (interestingly, there was disagreement over which was worse. Who knew?) . Most writers agreed though – a lie and misleading are essentially the same thing. They both serve the same intent, which is to serve the speaker and fool the listener.
I want to be really, really clear: misleading someone is the same as lying. Plain and simple. When my ex-narc left without telling me when he’d be home, he was lying. He knew damned well when he’d be home – he’d come home when he was done screwing around. If I pushed the issue though, he’d claim he hadn’t lied because he hadn’t answered the question.
Honestly, I simply can’t wrap my head around the idea that there is a difference between the two, and the implication that one is acceptable.
So now I’m on damage control. Now I have to explain to my son that lying and misleading are both Wrong. And, I have to hope that his conscience will force him to acknowledge this. Because his father is about to tell him that one is OK. And, well if I was 16 and told that as long as I didn’t out and out lie, as long as I only misled, it was groovy, I’d have been a happy camper!
All of which is a long way of saying narcissists are word magicians. They will spin their words like Rapunzel’s hair, all the while convincing you that you are the guilty party. And, if you’ve been with them long enough, you will believe it. Which is the really crazy part. It would be like someone robbing your house, and, when you confront them, shooting you, then blaming you for getting shot because you confronted them. Yes, there is a twisted logic in this, but it is Wrong.
So, if you are walking around in a state of perpetual confusion, it is not your fault. It is not your fault that you are being both lied to and misled. Both are wrong, and neither should be part of your life.
I wish I felt better, but I don’t. I feel sick at the thought that I have to convince my 16 year old that a lie is a lie, regardless of how veiled it might have been. I am even sicker at the thought that I will be engaging in moral battle with a covert narcissist, who is highly invested in convincing others that it is ok to mislead, seeing as that is how he treated me for 25 years.
Ugh. Wish me luck.