All the World's a Stage
As a writer, especially one whose passion is creative writing, I have tried to study and understand the rules of character development. One of the most crucial lessons I’ve learned is that story characters should never be all good or all bad, because humans are not this way in nature. We are a curious combination of both and often have conflicting thoughts as a result. For instance, we might know what’s right but feel compelled to do what’s wrong because it’s easier or brings more pleasure. This evokes inner conflict because most of us lean toward our good sides rather than our bad.
But some people say and do things undeniably in favor of their bad sides. This is occasionally obvious, but other times not so much. When it’s not immediately obvious, you might say those people are duplicitous, which according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary means “deceptive in words or actions.” I’d like to take this one step further and say that duplicity is deliberately hurtful. It is senseless except that it achieves the means of those who use it on others.
Many people engage in duplicitous behavior at one point or another. I’m ashamed to say I have. I once worked for a man who was so nasty that he practically hated himself. I don’t know the reason for his attitude, but he treated most of his staff like second-rate trolls put on earth to serve him. To exact revenge, many employees stole office supplies from his well-stocked cabinet. Items such as staples, tape dispensers, pens, and copy paper frequently came up missing. When the owner asked me where the items were, I responded casually with, “I’m not sure. I think we already used them.” Of course I knew they had been stolen because I often witnessed the thieves in progress. But I felt some small measure of vindication in leading the owner astray with my duplicity.
This happened over and over during my three-year stint. I can’t tell you what a relief it was when I finally left that job and didn’t have to continue the charade. I never wanted to see another office supply again.
My sister’s best friend from grade school is the most duplicitous person I know. She told a man she desperately loved that she was pregnant just to get him to marry her. After the wedding, it didn’t take him long to see the lie. She was genuinely pregnant by the time her story came out, but it was too late to save the marriage. They divorced immediately after the birth of their twins, although she continues to manipulate him to this day. When the twins were three years old, she called and told him she had a job interview in Arizona and needed him to babysit for about a week. In reality, she was traveling to Arizona to meet a man, but she knew her ex-husband wouldn’t have watched the kids under such circumstances. So she weaved yet another web in order to get what she wanted.
Jealous in Honour
I realize most people are not this extreme. But many of us have moments of weakness where we can choose to make either the right or wrong decision and opt for the latter. Duplicity also underlines passive-aggressive behavior in that it allows a person to seek what he or she wants without openly asking for it. It is manipulation at its finest.
The good thing is that in identifying these behaviors, you can start to weed them from your life. If you’re behaving duplicity, stop. If someone you care about is doing so, tell that person you no longer want to be manipulated. Behaviors like this are harmful to emotional and mental health, but you don’t have to tolerate them. They can and should be ended.