When I read my “word for a day” today it was a word previously unknown to me: Mendacity—the quality of being untruthful; a tendency to lie.
Merriam-Webster gives mendacity two definitions:
1. the quality or state of being mendacious (given to or characterized by deception or falsehood or divergence from absolute truth)
Synonyms include fable, fabrication, fairy tale, falsehood, falsity, lie, prevarication, tale, untruth, whopper
It made me think about the process of adolescence. One fancy term for the process of becoming independent, used by psychologists, which actually is descriptive, is “individual differentiation”. In the process of growing up and becoming independent from one’s parents, you become an individual and you become “different” in your values and world view from your parents. Part of the process of individual differentiation is breaking away from parents and it is a fairly healthy thing to do. (We all know people who do not break away and are the “failure to launch” young adults.)
Anyway, back to my new vocabulary word: mendacity. Adolescents as a rule, do lie from time to time. “Did you do your homework?” “ Have you taken out the garbage?” Parents who tell us their children don’t lie are usually pretty naïve! I also know that students with severely slow processing speed or learning deficits often lie, but are often not aware that they are lying. I recently read a psychologist report that said “it is important to note that, should _____ deny having done something, it should be considered that this denial is related to a true lack of awareness as opposed to deliberate lying.” Some kids are so fearful and anxious that they truly aren’t even aware they are lying!
It is hard for adults sometimes to understand this behavior, especially parents. However, if you deal with the untruth as just another behavior and help the young person understand that the consequence being seen as having “mendacity” may mean that people will not trust what you say when you really want them to believe you! Most of us learn, over time, that lying doesn’t pay off. But… as adolescents, it is one of those behaviors and phases we go through in our process of becoming a young adult. Shaming a child or making them feel miserable for lying does not necessarily stop the behavior and may make it worse! Confronting the behavior, in a loving, less judgmental way may keep the relationship intact and help the young person learn how to confront difficult or stressful situations in a more healthy positive way!