The duplicity of shame

Apr 4th, 2017 | By | Category: Commentary

Jeff Hough

By Jeff Hough

Strangers often approach me to say they read my column. I am grateful for their feedback as it inspires me to keep going. Though this column is one that I hope will inspire, I am nervous as I let my fingers dance over the keys.

I have been working on a leadership project,, with an old friend. We have been reviewing some of the leadership problems facing America today. Our podcast (The V Podcast) discusses these problems in depth. The latest episode was on duplicity and its effects on an organization. While researching the episode, I connected several dots floating around in my head. Then while listening to an inspiring talk, the final connection fell into place.

Typically, I am all in favor of technology and the progression of society and the workplace. Yet, there is a growing trend that threatens the advancement of many things. It begins with the concept of duplicity. Duplicity is a deceitfulness in speech, conduct or hypocrisy. Examples of duplicity are all around us. An easy example is Bernie Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scam.

Add to duplicity today’s shame culture, and the environment starts to become volatile. Author Andy Couch’s article, “The Return of Shame,” points out how our society is transitioning to a shame-based culture. He illustrates his point by highlighting how social media has come to dominate our lives and our thinking.

He argues that social media has fused our public and private lives in such a way that there is almost no separation. This lack of separation causes us to have unrealistic expectations of what life should be. Often, people live and die by how many likes a post gets. Judging the quality of an event by the online response, not the quality of the moment.

Combining duplicity and shame creates an environment stifling to relationships and creativity. Time was when you would do something stupid and only one or two people would know about it. After it was over, you and your friends could laugh about it and go on with your life, the memory of the event fading.

Today, there are cameras everywhere, recording almost every moment of our lives. Now if you do something dumb, the moment will live on forever and heaven forbid it goes viral.

If it goes viral, you may not like the 15 minutes of fame you get. For example, the recent social media uproar over Vice President Mike Pence’s disclosure over the marital rules he and his wife have.

The Twitter world was full of vitriol over the couple’s agreement to not have dinner alone with someone of the opposite sex. The community passed judgment on a private behavior, publicly shaming a moral belief.

New York Times columnist David Brooks adds an interesting perspective to Andy Couch’s thoughts. He states that “while the new culture allegedly values inclusion and tolerance, it can be unmerciful to those who disagree and to those who don’t fit in.” It is this duplicity which kills creativity and hinders the development of relationships.

The question then becomes, “How do we overcome this impediment to growth?” The answer is simple—build better relationships with those around you. Put down the electronic devices and look someone in the eye. My sister invites her kids over for dinner frequently. Her No. 1 rule is to check all cell phones at the door.

“Haters gonna hate,” but their wrath is fleeting and always in search of the next target. Good relationships will always give you the strength to press forward, despite feelings of doubt and fear created by the haters. So go to lunch with a friend and build something meaningful today. It is the antidote to what ails us.

Jeff Hough is a business author, blogger and speaker in Pocatello.

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