Dear Vicki: Sammy and I met at the restaurant where we both work and something clicked between us. Even though we’re pretty different (Sammy is really loud and laughs a lot, I’m much quieter and more of a slow mover), our friendship has been growing for almost a year now and I’ve come to think of her as my best friend. But lately, I’ve caught Sammy lying to me which is something I would never, ever do. It hasn’t been big things, but it’s made me question if I can trust her. For example, we agreed to buy a birthday gift together for another girl at work, but then Sammy went in on a gift with someone else. And just last week we set up a time to meet for dinner, but she never showed and didn’t answer my texts. Later, I found out she was at the movies with her brother. Sammy is such an outgoing, funny person that it’s super having her as a best friend, but the lying is a big problem. Relationships matter a whole lot to me and I need to trust my closest friends. What can I do about Sammy? Signed, Needs Honesty
Dear Needs Honesty: It’s never easy to discover that someone is intentionally not telling us the truth. It does make it harder to trust them, and trust sits at the core of every relationship. While it is never really okay to lie, there are different kinds of “mis-truths” and different reasons they happen. One person’s “exaggeration” is another person’s lie. Different people have different ideas of what constitutes truth, and that’s especially relevant to our elemental personalities. I think if we take a closer look at the elemental personalities of you and Sammy, we might see where some of those differences stand.
You describe Sammy as someone who is outgoing, funny, and laughs a lot. That is a very apt description of someone with a primary Fire personality. You, on the other hand, are likely a primary Earth personality given your strong need to trust your closest friends and the importance you place on relationships. And it’s no wonder you two clicked. In the Five Elements model, Earth and Fire relate on the Nurturing Cycle, with Fire feeding Earth. As an Earth person, a connection with Sammy will have an undercurrent that feels nurturing to you, something Earth people value. And Sammy probably appreciates her relationship with you because in nature, an earthen hearth is a very natural and safe container for fire. She probably feels very supported by you. The combination of your Earth stability and Sammy’s joyful Fire is sure to be good for both of you.
What I think is going on for you and Sammy is something that occurs in every relationship: the newness is wearing off. That means the focus on good behavior and making a good impression is relaxing. This isn’t to say that Sammy doesn’t care about you as much, it’s more that she trusts your connection enough to relax into more of her real self. And for her, that means more of her natural Fire energy will begin coming out. That can be good news or bad, depending on how you look at it. Most importantly, you need to understand Sammy’s behavior.
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Dear Vicki: This is probably a rhetorical question – I doubt that you can really answer it – but what happened to telling the truth? At work, my boss “fudges” numbers to make things look better to his investors. A friend recently said she couldn’t help me paint my bathroom because she had to work late, but another friend saw her that evening laughing it up with a guy at a bar. Even my sister lied to me. She said she loved the blouse I gave her, yet as far as I can tell she hasn’t worn it once. And let’s not even discuss what’s happening politically these days. It is very wrong to tell a lie, so when did it became so acceptable? And why? Is there something the Five Elements model has to say about this? Signed: Still Honest in Hanover
Dear Still Honest: I have to say that I agree with you – as a nation we seem willing to accept dishonesty more easily lately. I also agree that we are not going to discuss political issues here, other than to acknowledge that the people in positions of leadership do affect social norms. What we can cover is why the people in your life might be lying and why it’s affecting you the way it is. Basically, the fact that your response to lying is so strong suggests that you probably have a primary Metal personality, or at least must be acting from that place at this time. Metal people can be very absolute in their ideas of what is right and what is wrong. Coloring inside the lines, so to speak, matters a great deal to them. And the reason for this can be found in the Five Elements model.
The element of Metal sits at the end of the cycle, which means it sees the whole of the cycle and can determine what worked, what didn’t work, and what is of great enough value to be taken forward into the next cycle. From that perspective – from their focus on the past – it’s easy to understand why Metal personalities believe that know what is right, or even best and important, and what isn’t. Further, they often believe that if we know what works really well, we shouldn’t ever want to do anything differently. This is an example of the black and white thinking of a Metal person. Truth is important, so lying is never acceptable. But not everyone is a Metal, and the other elemental personalities each have their own relationship with the concept of lying. Let’s take a quick look.
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Dear Vicki: My 12 year old son has always been funny and outgoing, but lately I’ve caught him lying to me. It’s not really big stuff, but it’s concerning. For example, when Todd spent the weekend at his fathers (we had an amicable divorce five years ago), Todd reported that he and his dad had lunch with the mayor. When I checked, it turns out that the assistant mayor is an old high school friend of my ex-husband and that’s who they lunched with. When I challenge Todd, he laughed and said it’s a better story to have lunch with a mayor. Another time Todd complained that his history teacher assigned 100 pages to read over the weekend. It turned out that the assignment was 50 pages, but they could do more for extra credit. His response when I asked was to cop a dramatic attitude and laugh. I’m beginning to wonder if Todd’s a Fire who’s out of control and that’s why he’s lying. Regardless, I’m very upset, my Metal will not tolerate it, so how do I get him to stop? Signed: Disturbed Outside Denver
Dear Disturbed: Teaching children that honesty matters is an important part of parenting. It will be especially important to you as a Metal because following rules and maintaining high ethical standards matter greatly to Metals. The norm for our culture has been that lying is wrong, and Metals are our guides for determining right from wrong, so you are probably upset that your son isn’t getting with the program. In truth, your son’s lying strikes at the core of your values as a Metal. We’ll address his lying first, but I suspect there’s another issue at play that’s part of what’s upsetting you, and we’ll cover that later. But first, the lying.
It’s interesting you suspect that Fire would be the element to lie. That’s possible, yet all of the elements will lie. But the reasons they lie will be different.
- When Fires lie, it’s usually for a sense of drama. Todd’s correct, it’s a more dramatic story to say one has lunched with the mayor than the assistant mayor. Fires exaggerate a story for the effect, too. Fires enjoy being the entertainer and garnering the attention.
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