Spending time with extended family can be a great joy during the holidays. On the other hand, for some, it can also be a time to practice those virtues we thought we had down – you know, like patience, tolerance, courage. One woman who wrote for advice through my Ask Colette column was given an opportunity each holiday to practice all three.
My brother-in-law will once again be gracing our holiday table this season with his white lies. I don't know how my sister deals with it (they've been married for over 17 years), but I've had enough. While telling a story, he not only embellishes but he'll also make stuff up, such as how he recently met a famous celebrity or had box seats for a professional football game. We all know it isn't true, but no one says anything. My children are finally old enough to be impressed with his tales and think he's really cool, but I prefer they know the truth. Should I finally call him out after all these years of dishonesty?
Speaking My Truth
Dear Speaking My Truth,
Your letter brought back memories of a guy I knew in high school. He was full of it, but I let him babble on, rather than question his stories, because he was popular and back then I was still chasing approval.
This situation is trickier, as he is your sister's hubby. Whether she says anything or not, I'm certain she is sensitive to the issue. Have you ever had a direct conversation with her about his incredible exaggerations? If you choose to speak up directly to him, keep in mind he could back pedal, tell you you're wrong and create a scene. After all, unless you have a detective following him full-time, how can you be 100% sure of what has happened?
The sad fact is that somewhere he doesn't believe he's worthy enough to just be who he is, so he tells white lies to feel more important. In other words, he needs to be validated. Personally, I'd probably let it go, encourage my kids to take his comments with a grain of salt and look for a redeeming quality to focus on instead.
If you must speak up, I'd take him aside and say, "Just so you know, I appreciate how committed you are to my sister. She cares deeply for you and we care about you too, but some of the stories you share seem exaggerated and it causes me to feel less comfortable around you. We care about you even if you weren't sitting in box seats!" Perhaps he'll get the message. If he gets fired up and angry, let him have his say, followed by you simply saying, "Mmm, I see it differently," and walk away.
If that simply isn't your style, you could consider being a broken record. Every time he shares an "unbelievable" story, state the same, "Wow! That story is unbelievable!" That way, you'll be speaking your truth while leaving his respect intact.