What’s Your Private and Public Face?

Personally, I want our political and religious leaders to aspire to be ethical, trustworthy, and decent individuals who will make every effort to be a servant of the public. Leaders are held to a higher standard of personal behavior when they seek public offices with civic and leadership responsibilities. Unfortunately, many leaders fall short of this expectation, particularly when their private-self is made public. Those of us who are not in the public eye also have private and public personas.

You may have read of Jerry Falwell Jr’s leave of absence from the Christian institution Liberty University, at the request of the board. The board asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence as the president and chancellor of the university following a questionable photo that was posted to Instagram. The photo shows Falwell with his pants unzipped and his arm around a young woman. Falwell defended himself by saying “It was all in good fun.” Many people believe the photo to be hypocritical and indecent, which is contrary to the school’s strong moral code of ethics.

Although our personality is relatively fixed, personalities are multifaceted. When at home we can let our guard down and express ourselves freely with immediate family members and trusted friends. Yet in public, we choose carefully how and what to reveal. It is normal and healthy to adapt to our environment and its expectations of us. We may speak differently when in the presence of our spouse, children, friends, co-workers, or our boss. We certainly should watch our behavior and speech when in the presence of cameras. We have aspects of ourselves that we do not like and try to hide from everyone, and perhaps even from ourselves.

How much of ourselves should we reveal in personal relationships? Self-disclosure is necessary to build close relationships. As relationships grow closer, so does the amount of self-disclosure. People tend to share more when others share first. How we share, what we share, and when we share it are all factors that will influence our relationships. We will need feedback to determine whether we’ve shared too much.

In Japan, “Honne” is a person’s true feelings and desires. And “Tatemae” is the behavior and opinions one displays in public. According to Wikipedia, Honne may be contrary to what is expected by society or what is required according to one’s position and circumstances, and they are often kept hidden, except with one’s closest friends. Tatemae is what is expected by society and required according to one’s position and circumstances, and these may or may not match one’s Honne. In fact, there’s a quote attributed to the Japanese that there are three faces: “The first face, you show to the world. The second face, you show to your close friends and your family. The third face, you never show anyone. It is the truest reflection of who you are.” Each face reveals a different aspect of your character.

I encourage the use of self-reflection to better know yourself. What is your public face? What do you reveal to your family and closest friends? And finally, what character traits do you hide from others, even yourself?

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