Masking Virtues

Kodwo Brumpon

“A child who is to be successful is not to be reared exclusively on a bed of down.” – Akan proverb


There is no doubt that you come out to play when you are by yourself. As individuals, we are more likely to eat slowly and chew our food when we eat in public than when we eat at home by ourselves. It is not something most of us are proud of, but it is what we do. We are very comfortable with ourselves when we are by ourselves. The moment another pair of eyes comes into the scenario, most of us start to live up to their expectations.


There is something about expectations when we come into contact with others. As to whether they really expecting something or not is secondary. Sometimes we feel like they are expecting more from us, and we want to prove them right. At other times we feel as if they are expecting less from us and we desire to prove them wrong. Such expectations are contributory factors for the different behavioural attitude when we are in public. This sense of expectation is like a sentence hanging around our necks.


In reality, all it takes is for another set of eyes to be in our ‘business’ and then we strive to live to the expectations of the watching eyes. Our communal attitude is hence a process requiring various elements, one of which happens to be our sense of perception regarding the presence of others. We create experiences based on expectations. The pertinent question is: do we have to behave according to the expectations of the spectators? If that is the case, then the surprising majority of us can easily be labelled as living double lives – the in-house attitude and the communal attitude.


Fortunately, the clothes of hypocrisy do not look good on anyone. That is why we would not necessarily label such behaviour as hypocrisy. What we need to understand is that when we encounter others, our sense of impression becomes heightened and our energy levels change. Due to our inter-connectivity, once our energy levels change the energy levels of the audience also change. Their presence becomes one of the most powerful of pleasure’s tools, and so we strive to please them in a bid to earn their applause. When they applause, it means they are happy and that makes us also happy.  More often, we want these moments of pleasure to continue, and so we do all we can to sustain the behaviour that meets such expectations.


According to Freud, humans seem better able to deal with stimuli from the outside than from within. The behaviour we exhibit in the presence of others is our response to the stimuli coming from outside. The downside of this social orientation and interaction is when the expectations require us to act negatively and unethically. The pressure of the expectations pushes us to develop metrical requirements for the negativity. We unconsciously become servants to it, and the action tasks us to build a formal model to represent how the negativity should be branded. Soon, others pick up this symbolism and sculpt it into their attitudes.


Once an act, especially a negative one, has a symbol, it become easier to relate to it. But more essentially, it takes over us and demands to be cloaked in a virtuous light so that it can freely mingle in society. For example, the surprising majority among us would readily bribe a policeman for a traffic offence than risk going through what we have popular termed as ‘they-will-waste-your-time’ syndrome. This is the honourable light in which we have masked a corrupt practice. Such masking makes it easier to rid our consciences of ethical dilemmas. These arrangements permit the emergence and thriving of negativities and unethical acts in our societies.


Some of us do not talk about it because we have mistakenly believed that as long as we are not partaking in such petty acts of negativity, then we are good to go. Well, if you fall within that bracket you are mistaken. This is because evil abounds because ethically upright and positive-minded individuals refused to condemn the negativities and unethical actions. If you truly believe you are a good person, then condemn unethicality public and always. It is time to speak up and stomp out the negativities eating away our society. We cannot live life by ourselves, we will always need other people. But there is no way we should live to suit the expectations of those others.


The core ethos behind living is to awake to positivism and ethics, and to combine them in extraordinarily new ways each moment to create a synergetic force as our contribution to culture. For that to happen, we must bridge the gap between the ‘we’ in private and the ‘we’ in public. We ought to tap into the mental pool of resources — ideas, inspiration, insights, information — that we have accumulated to orient us toward the good, stimulating us to choose virtues as our behavioural attitude.

This would make us likable by ourselves in private. The new sense of appreciation would then enable us to strip the most complex of cultural phenomena down to their bare essence, forcing us to re-examine our layers of assumptions in order to eclipse the sense of expectations. It would dare us to stand on the positive side of the integrity counter, and altogether our society will thrive.



Kodwo Brumpon is a management consultant and a life coach who inspires individuals, groups and corporate bodies to think and pursue that which is true, practice goodness in their interactions and create a more beautiful world with their products and services. Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at

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