I know a few people who regularly bend the truth or create a version of events to suit their own needs when they talk with me. I find it really tiring to talk with them, because I have to pretend that what they are saying is true when I know for a fact that it is part truth and part fiction.
In my teens and twenties I was guilty of this. If one dog barked at me and jumped on me while I was out walking, it became 3 dogs when I told the story later. If someone was rude to me, when I reiterated it to a friend, the person was much meaner in the version I told. This was a real struggle for me and I think it went back to overdramatizing the event to make it more interesting, but a lovely person came along once in my life and told me I was actually lying, and how could people believe anything I said if I exaggerated all the time?
It was some of the best advice I ever received. I began making a real effort to tell the story exactly as it happened, even if I knew I could make it more interesting by adding some fictional details. A lie is a lie is a lie. I teach my kids that if they lie once, I can't believe them at all, and the same is true with adults. Because I struggled with this issue for years, I think I am more sensitive to it than others, and I find it lights a flame inside me when I catch someone in a conversation with me and I know they aren't sticking to the facts.
The older I get, the less I want to pretend. I want honesty, communicated with bravery and clarity. It takes guts to do this. We don't always come out looking so great if we are honest with ourselves and others. I know I still slip up sometimes and tell a story that's been souped-up a little. It's human nature to brag a bit and make ourselves sound better or funnier than we really are, but I discovered that I can tell a story honestly and then say, "I should've said..." to get my comic bit in there while not pretending I actually said it.
If I want my kids to learn the difference between the truth and a lie, I must understand it myself. I have to model it, story by story, moment by moment, and day by day in order for them to live it too. I know I will continue to make mistakes in this area. I will extend grace to myself when I fail, but the next time, I'll listen for that little voice, pointing out that exaggeration is actually lying, and the straight truth is the best version in any situation.