James Hunter, public speaker for Servant Leadership, said, “Far and away the biggest gap we find in leadership skills is failing to confront people with problems and situations as they arise, and hold them accountable. We discipline (train) because we care about people, because we want them to be the best they can be.”
The failure or reluctance to legitimately confront people is not only an epidemic among managers in the business world, but it is quite common in the areas of family and social life. And because the Christian religion puts a high priority on loving one’s neighbor, it is especially prevalent among Christians. The reason for this is due to the confusion over what Christian love and compassion really means. Many mistake kindness, being positive or optimistic with the biblical precept of loving our neighbor. But as I stated in other articles, these amiable qualities, attractive as they are, can be practiced to a fault.
In fact, certain vices are introduced whenever kindness or being nice becomes “the end all and be all.” Keep in mind that vices, as well as sins, exist in groups. As such, they congregate and cluster together. Therefore, the reluctance to confront with firm but loving candor leads to yet another vice. That vice is duplicity.
Duplicity can be defined as saying one thing in private and another in public. It can also involve speaking highly of someone in their presence and yet disparaging that same person in their absence. Some call it “speaking out of both sides of your mouth.” This latter vice adversely affects good businesses, relationships and our spirituality. Perhaps, this is why our Lord and the Saints identify it, not only as a fault, but that which is evil.
Jesus said, “Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No.' Anything more is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37) Does our “yes” mean “yes” and our “no” mean “no?” Or have we gotten into the habit of saying what others want to hear and then, behind the scenes, we say or do something which betrays the words we once spoke?
I ask this because I see a lot pain and unnecessary inconveniences at work, in my social life and within Christian circles. Indeed, a wayward colleague at one’s work, a wayward family member or a wayward member of one’s church is often not confronted in the beginning when the problems are still manageable. Instead, they are criticized and disparaged by their peers in their absence only to be greeted with smiles and complements in their presence. Sadly, many who would exercise this kind of duplicity do it without blinking an eye.
Something else to consider: Too often, those in authority, or those who could minimize the damage, do not speak what needs to be spoken. This is due to the habit of putting people’s feelings above their welfare. As such, when the opportunity presents itself the one who is obligated to deliver a reprimand or disciplinary measure, winces and draws back. From there, things go from bad to worse until the situation gets so bad that something desperate has to be done. I can’t tell you how many times this happens at the highest levels of corporations and religious organizations. The end result is that people get hurt.
Mind you, duplicity is not just a fault or a weakness- it is a sin! It offends God because it not only hurts people, it is a human characteristic that finds no place or favor in who he is and what he does. But how do we overcome it? The answer: By practicing its opposite. The opposite of duplicity is sincerity and truthfulness. What people see in you is what they should get. To break it down a little further, if you cannot be true to how you feel about certain people in their presence, then at least try to refrain from gossiping and criticizing them in their absence. Understandably, there are exceptions; especially when important matters are shared with others in confidence. However, we have to be honest with ourselves. We have to try to be consistent in what we say in people’s presence and what we say in their absence.
The Golden Rule is quite applicable here. Our Lord says, “Do unto others as you would have them to unto you.” You wouldn’t trust a person who smiles in your presence only to tear you to pieces in your absence. Yet, the injustice of such duplicity does not register when we engage in similar behavior. The sting of guilt is rationalized away becomes it comes so natural to us. Therefore, we have to guard against it. The Catholic Catechism states: “Truth as uprightness in human action and speech is called truthfulness, sincerity, or candor. Truth or truthfulness is the virtue which consists in showing oneself true in deeds and truthful in words, and in guarding against duplicity, dissimulation, and hypocrisy.”
If you look hard enough in the Gospels, you will find that Jesus does not compliment his Apostles very often. Whatever compliments are given are few and far between. But when he first greeted Nathanael [also known as Bartholomew] in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, he said, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” People always knew where they stood with stood with St. Bartholomew. If truth be told, people knew where they stood with our Lord. He was not one to mince words. Either should we.