Your Friendly Neighborhood Pathological Liar

If you ever have the chance to talk to a pathological liar, then I suggest you take it.

As long as you’re not married to one, or living with one, or in any way emotionally, spiritually, socially, or financially tied to one, they can be a lot of fun, like going to the zoo or watching the Miss American pageant. There’s always the chance that one of the contestants will trip and tumble down the steps.

During my first semester at Lipscomb University, I met a fellow freshman who claimed to have played with Ryan Adams and Wilco. When asked for a private demonstration of his talent, he proved to be a mediocre guitarist and an even worse liar. He wanted to impress us—and who doesn’t want admiration?—but his relatively harmless deception elicited our pity instead.

It’s hard to love a guy who doesn’t love himself. Don’t tell people who love Ryan Adams and Wilco that you have played with them. They will turn the internet inside out to prove that you’re full of crap, and then you’ll be sitting in your dorm room on a throne of empty Domino’s boxes in a ratty bathrobe even more lonely than before.

I listened to Nels Cline shred in the Ryman auditorium, and you can only achieve that level of excellence through practice, not by prevarication. That being said, Lipscomb’s resident rock star had nothing on the only bonafide pathological liar that I’ve ever met.

I cannot tell a lie

“I cannot tell a lie.”

I was a freshman in high school when Matthew was dating my first serious girlfriend’s older sister. One night we were sitting around the kitchen table over at one set of her grandparents’ house waiting for Jennifer and Matthew to show up. If you’ve ever seen a dog shake a toy until its stuffing came out, then you get the idea of how the family was talking about him. Only half in jest, I asked, “Is this how you talk about me when I’m not here?”

They said more or less in unison, “No. We like you.”

Being the favorite, I couldn’t despise Matthew. The silver medalist may lose respect for the gold medalist who gets disqualified for cheating, but he doesn’t mind winning by default. Matthew and I rarely saw one another or talked, and he made me look good.

He was an upperclassman at Lipscomb University when I arrived. After a couple of semi-public meltdowns, his reputation evolved from less-than-cunning manipulator into full-blown crazy, and he became the stuff of legend. He showed up drunk to a party one night and told my ex-girlfriend that he was in love with her and had been dating her sister all those years for chance at the increasingly unlikely sister-switch.

My cousin Bryan was living with her current boyfriend’s older brother at the time, and the two of them went to Matthew’s dorm room to confront him about the episode. They hadn’t been there long before he burst into tears, whimpering, “We all can’t be Bryan Church, Mr. Big Man on Campus.” This bizarre, servile, implosive display was so disconcerting that they left.

Matthew dropped off the map for a couple of years, but by the time I was an upperclassman myself, he had reappeared on the scene, one of those Frat Pappys who hang around campus on the periphery of student life. You’re not quite sure if they’re trying to relive or replicate their glory days, or if they’re on the eight-year plan, or if they’re degreeless, jobless, or both, and have nothing better to do.

Matthew made appearances at concerts, soccer games, and Ultimate Frisbee games. He’d put on quite a bit of weight at this point, but still wore skinny vintage t-shirts so that when he’d jump for a catch, his hairy belly would flop out. I think it’s safe to say that he had a muffin top, but this comical physical trait didn’t help his hyper-competitive, argumentative presence on the field.

He would throw a hip into a player on the opposite team while they were both going for the disc, and when the other guy picked himself up and got in his face, he would throw up his hands as if to say, “What? It’s just a game.”

I never wanted to be on his team because something of this sort was inevitable and was totally out of place in our casual, Friday afternoon games, which were more for exercise and laughs than competition. They quickly became arguing matches that were no fun for anyone.

He was once asked to leave.

Nothing sets my blood to boiling like the instigator who tries to pass off his poor sportsmanship as another person’s temper or lack of skill. He also happened to be a pathological liar.

I was skeptical when he’d told me that the University of Colorado wanted him in a Master’s programs so badly that they offered to pay for his weekly commute by plane. The last time I had checked, I wasn’t an idiot, and I had a pretty good idea that he hadn’t even finished his Bachelor’s.

Though this story had more holes than a sponge, it was an tiny fib compared to the spectacle he made by showing up at a casual Texas Hold ‘Em game carrying a sword. He explained that he was a personal bodyguard of North Korea’s Head of State, Kim Jong-il.

While he was in the bathroom, my friend Garrett waving the katana around and mimicking our resident samurai’s fight against a would-be assassin. When Matthew returned, he flew into a rage and cut a gash in his forearm, something which he said he had to do six more times to “purify” the steel.

Yikes. Someone should have called a doctor and told him to bring some tranquilizers and a tetanus shot. Matthew’s ludicrous claims would have been funnier if he hadn’t been bleeding and holding a lethal weapon, and you might laugh if you weren’t wondering where he is and worrying that he might be your kid’s P.E. teacher.

Leo Tolstoy said that every man thinks to change the world, but no man thinks to change himself.

Shall we all try to be a little more honest this year?

If you need some inspiration, click here, and if you like what you read, you can sign up to receive free future e-newsletters in your inbox.

Comments Closed

3 Comments

  1. Chris
    Posted January 6, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Does this bro have a mental illness? I feel rather sad for him.

  2. Austin L. Church
    Posted January 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    I certainly think that’s possible. I don’t see how a person could be in his right mind and still tell lies so outlandish that they’re bound to be discovered as lies. It’s hard to know how to broach a subject that way, but I guess it begins with speaking the truth by saying something bold like, “I don’t believe you.” People caught in lies either get embarrassed or angry, and the emotion determines the side-effects. Somebody like Matthew probably would have simply severed the relationship, though I have no way of knowing for sure.

  3. Austin L. Church
    Posted January 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    A friend of mine shared some wise and sobering words on Facebook: “We should take the opportunity to help these people if possible … I now regret having done not even a little to help try and turn [a friend’s path. His antics seemed funny at the time.” If you know a habitual or pathological liar, then intervene. Have the courage to say, “I don’t believe you.” Dishonesty is self-sabotage, so loving dishonest people requires that we call out the dishonesty. I wish I’d had the guts to do it back in college. I have since, but those failures are the ones that stick with us. Check out this article written by a recovering professional liar: “The Lie Guy.”