the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.
synonyms: dissimulation, false virtue, cant, posturing, affectation, speciousness,empty talk, insincerity, falseness, deceit, dishonesty, mendacity,pretense, duplicity; More antonyms: sincerity
“Hypocrite!” is one of the biggest scarlet letters of our time. We smell hypocrisy twenty miles off, and race for blood and branding. We are hurt by hypocrisy; we are offended by it; we are angered by it; and we are eager, for better or worse, to fling the label at someone who deserves it (or doesn’t).
Here’s a confession:
I’m a flaming hypocrite.
Blazing across the night sky, faster than a speeding bullet, I am a bright, burning, huge, massive, awful, terrible hypocrite.
I say things I don’t mean, but expect others to believe what I say.
My walk doesn’t always match my talk.
I break promises.
I shade truths just enough for them to become palatable to me (but compromising the integrity of the initial truth).
I honour self-control and clarity, but lose my cool when I feel threatened or unjustly treated.
I play the part.
I play many parts.
I play the parts I think you want to see, and hide the rest.
I play the parts so as to control what you see, and do otherwise on my own time.
I harbour secret sins and indulgences, some of which torment me, while others barely faze me.
I want people to treat me better than they do, but I refuse to treat others in such a way to start with.
I can smell hypocrisy in others like a shark smells blood, and I take an almost gleeful (but totally
godly and righteous) moment to point out the other person’s error.
I break my word.
I hide my failures.
I’m a hypocrite through and through.
And the good news is: you’re one too. Whatever our backgrounds, whatever our beliefs, whatever our pasts or presents, we are all hypocrites at various points in our lives.
Just as long as your hypocrisy is bigger and louder than mine; as long as your hypocrisy causes more damage than mine does; and as long as your hypocrisy leaves more scars and wounds than mine, I can smugly sit back and ignore whatever hypocrisy lives me and carry on.
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14).
Today it seemed almost every other news story was about the hackers who publicly posted Ashley Madison’s confidential client files (Ashley Madison being the website where married folks can post to have affairs). One of the first superstar clients to be targeted? Josh Duggar of the recent Duggar family scandal. These are the Duggars who preached “family values”, targeted LGBTQ+ people, lived by a strict sexual purity ethic, and created such an impossible standard of life and community that many people — Christian and non-Christian — shunned them. They were too perfect and demanded too much perfection in return.
I’ve never had an affair. I’ve never wanted an affair. Josh Duggar’s personal decisions in light of his publicly crowed values would indeed qualify him as a hypocrite. Ashley Madison, affirming that all of their sexual encounters are consensual, do not count the uninformed spouse who’s being cheated on. As far as I can tell, from the definition above, AM is a hypocritical company. Of course not all parties involved have given consent! That’s the nature of adultery!
Am I to feel better about my indiscretions because Josh appears to be a bigger hypocrite than I am? Because I’ve never supported AM, am I the purer person?
Or am I just another Pharisee?
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10 if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in. (Isaiah 58:9b-12)
Am I creating a yoke? By pointing the finger, am I adding oppression? How we all love to point that finger sometimes. We feel so much better about ourselves when we do. We feel holier… righter… more moral… higher.
Have public hypocrites become the 21rst century’s witches?
Don’t get me wrong, hypocrisy can be devastating. Trust is broken; relationships are shattered; we can’t believe people we once cared for; and we often end up questioning our own values and beliefs because they share similar aspects to the one we call “Hypocrite!”
Adultery is cheating on a beloved spouse, and breaking vows made before God and/or community. Two people stood up in public and pledged faithfulness and fidelity to one another. To seek sexual fulfillment outside of that relationship while it still exists is hypocrisy. And it needs to be addressed.
But HOW it is addressed is the rub.
An imperfect but loving community coming together to support all parties involved is one thing. Streaming gossip and laughing over someone else’s public embarrassment is quite another. That probably says more about our delight in practicing evil talk than anything else.
So how do I address the hypocrisy I see in the religious circles I was trained in? Some of the loudest, cruelest voices in our world are… Christians. Duggar claims to be a Christian of the highest order. Now that scandal after scandal is exposed in his wake, Christianity as a whole is taking a beating.
I mean, if we’re going to preach purity but not live it that makes us hypocrites.
The thing is, we aren’t all fundamentalists; we aren’t all conservative evangelicals; we aren’t all trying to preach a purity ethic that values men above women, and picks and chooses which lives are important and which are hellbound.
And the crazy thing is, not all fundie conservatives are Duggar followers (or insert whichever talking head you wish).
And around and around we go.
Sometimes that’s hard for me to say, I’ll admit, because I came from a place where specific teachers were held up as “biblical”, while others were damned; “purity” related to sex only, and the heaviest burden of it all rested with women; and cherry picking lives using cherry-picked Scripture verses was common and acceptable (for example, it is often approved to share pictures of aborted fetuses in the name of being “pro-life”, but it is okay to demand the heads of ISIS soldiers or shout for Canada to reinstate the death penalty). To me, bible college was often brimming with such hypocrisy but we all got around it because of the Scripture verses we picked to use based on our ethnic and social backgrounds.
There is personal hurt and trauma stemming from spiritually oppressive teachings that will take a long time to heal from, especially from my bible college years and some of the charismatic churches I attended. But that’s my hurt that I have to own; and I also have to own the hurt I caused others — deep pain that is not easily mended.
I know there is incredible hypocrisy in Christianity. I’m a Christian, and I see it in myself! When a group sets itself up as set apart from the world, creates an impossible standard of morality, or degrades others way of living to prove a point, and then falls, the hypocrisy is seen by all. And it is great. Terribly great. No wonder so many fingers point in our directions.
But I’ve come to learn and understand that hypocrisy exists in Christianity, in atheism, in anti-theism, in secular humanism, in Buddhism, in Islam, in Judaism, in indigenous spirituality, in Hinduism, in paganism, in Wiccan.
We have a habitual obsession with living hypocritically whether based on legalistic morality or cultural norms or scientific principles.
It’s how we now handle the hypocrisy in our midst that will define our character and our future.
Hypocrisy can hurt people deeply. And that hurt needs to be affirmed, recognized and understood. But do we need the witch hunts we create for ourselves only in order to puff ourselves us? To point out another group’s speck in their collective eye?
Is our call-out culture so important to us that we’ll banish healing from our midst and simply enjoy pointing the finger and the malicious talk?
Is it possible, with all the differing cultures and religions and belief systems vying for space at the table, that we live in a perpetual state of hypocrisy in the eyes of some?
It’s very possible.
When people refuse to see the weary souls turning to Christianity for solace and healing, rather calling them “Hypocrites!” based only a new set of belief systems they’ve embraced, how truthful is that? Not very. That’s demanding perfection where perfection is impossible. So many people believe for so many different reasons, and are in so many different places on the journey that it’s hard to really cry “Foul!” unless we’re directly involved in a specific situation.
When situations are so public, like the Duggars, it’s harder to take a compassionate stance or to be objective because the offender begins to represent the group.
And when we all grab torches and pitchforks, we’ve tossed reconciliation to the wind and embraced an easy, distracting path that ultimately leads us nowhere.
It’s time we stopped demanding perfection from ourselves and from one another.
It’s time we stopped pretending like we actually espoused perfection in the first place.