Lately I’ve been doing some studying on a notion that came to me in my sleep. This often happens to me: I’ll be in the throes of REM sleep, likely my third or fourth cycle, which means it is close to when I should wake up. Somewhere between REM sleep and floating back into a state of consciousness, an epiphany occurs and I can’t get up fast enough to write it down. Some of the best song lyrics I have penned have been born in my REM sleep. Also, I get great ideas for presentation topics, seminars, or just new book material.

In any case, the other night or morning I was mulling over the term “two-faced” in my sleep, and woke up realizing that we all wear two-faces. Sometimes they mirror each other, and sometimes they do not.

For example, when you are feeling truly happy or jubilant inside, and you wear the face of happiness on the outside, your two faces mirror one another. But have you ever been happy about something, or felt proud of an accomplishment and felt like you needed to “tone down your enthusiasm” for the sake of those around you? Have you ever downplayed accolades or praise because you didn’t want to appear prideful or conceited? This is an example of when your “two faces” might not match. Consider this – have you ever been truly disappointed in a friend or family member but didn’t want to hurt their feelings by telling them how badly they let you down? What face did you show them? A face of resignation, forgiveness, love, apathy, or indifference? A face that did not truly reflect the feelings in your heart? This too, is being two-faced.

We tend to associate the term “two faced” as somethign that is derogatory, undesirable, or insincere. We see it as an indication of dishonesty, and proof that the person we link to that label cannot be trusted. But is this always the case?

I’m beginning to think that sometimes being two-faced is a good thing, and I believe what makes the difference between “good” two-faced and “bad” two-faced is your intentions. If your intent is to hurt, scar, manipulate, or deceive, then clearly being two-faced is “bad”. If however, your intent is to save someone from hurt, to show them love or forgiveness despite the harm they may have caused you, then your two-facedness is “good”.

I remember how my mother always smiled in the faces of her enemies and treated everyone with love and respect even when they hurt or disappointed her. She made a habit of doing her best to show the face of love at all times. She didn’t always succeed in that regard – sometimes, especially when she was very angry, her two faces mirrored each other, but that’s ok too. I’m not saying we should always choke on our anger and pretend to be sweet. My mom simply believed that she could accomplish more by building relationships rather than actively trying to tear them down. In other words, she had pure intentions.

By contrast, I can think of other people in my life who presented the face of helpfulness, attentiveness, eagerness, etc., only so they could establish a trust relationship with someone else for the purposes of taking advantage. Others still presented the face of a poor injured bird, needing support and attention, when in fact, they were manipulating their targets into compromising their integrity. These people had evil intentions, and used attractive “faces” to draw their victims in.

How then, do we prevent ourselves from becoming the wrong type of two faced? The answer is simple: search out and clarify your intentions. Ask yourself these questions (you might see some “Anger Solutions” formatted questions here because they fit):

1. Why am I hiding my true feelings from people? Is it because I want to protect their feelings, or because I secretly hope to hurt them down the road?

2. How do I feel about this person? Do I like/love/appreciate him/her, or do I really wish I didn’t have to deal with him/her?

3. How do I feel about this situation? Am I feeling hurt, angry, disappointed, frustrated? Or am I feeling happy, pleased, satisfied, superior? How am I expressing this feeling with my outside face?

4. What do I want to happen in this situation? How would I like it to be resolved? Do I want us to work it out and to remain friends? Or do I want to gain the upper hand?

5. What is the best thing that can happen if I express my true feelings? What is the worst thing that can happen?

6. What is the best thing that can happen if I exercise my good/evil intentions? What is the worst thing that can happen?

Check your intentions to ensure that the face you are showing the world is the face you truly want them to see.

Julie Christiansen