Tag: William Hazlit

Walking Hypocrites

The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy.

William Hazlit

Here’s the problem with Mr. Hazlit’s statement- are we not all basically walking hypocrites?’  Are we not all living lesser versions of an ideal life? Are we not all espousing greater virtues than we actually display?  Is not the essence of successful human beings an aspiration for something greater than what they currently are?

And yet, few concepts are as inherently repulsive to modern audiences as hypocrisy.  In the world where ‘being open-minded’ is essential the idea of a hypocrite who asserts one thing but does another is a cardinal sin.  I know people that have been unable to commit to much in their life because of a fear of sinking into hypocrisy.   These people seem to say “you can’t enter something unless it is a perfect moral fit, unless you can do it all the way”.  I’ve seen people that the tiniest tinge of hypocrisy they give up and keep searching for something more authentic.  Usually life ends up teaching them to be more practical and less ideologically pure.

“He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.”

George Orwell

Is not this a high standard for participation in life? Everything that is worth doing will challenge initial goals and presumptions.  If we are not willing to humble ourselves and admit we may have overstated our initial claims, admit to a bit of hypocrisy, can we ever really learn anything?

“I was not a hypocrite, with one real face and several false ones. I had several faces because I was young and didn’t know who I was or wanted to be.”

Milan Kundera

Having a strict abhorrence for hypocrisy sticks people in one spot and never allows them to try on different ‘faces’, to see who they might be if they went another way.  I’ve known people that started out the class clown and could never quite break free from that role. If someone has always been sweet do we not feel betrayed and saddened by an outburst? Would this not encourage someone to never be real and complicated because of a fear of the hypocrite label?

Even Jesus spoke about hypocrites, calling out the pharisees and sadducees, for preaching one thing and then behaving in an entirely different manner.

“Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

Matthew 6:2

I’ve been thinking about this topic because in many ways I feel like a walking hypocrite.  I am an open book with my life and yet I find it almost paralyzing to deal with any kind of conflict.  I am a romantic at heart and love pink, sappy movies and the whole idea of romance; and yet I am a realist that has a hard time with human physical affection and traditional feminine roles.  I love living alone and espouse it’s virtues but I also thrive off of a wide circle of friends.  I am the epitome of a goal-setter but goals often make me crazy with anxiety.  I am incredibly independent and yet needy in a certain way.  I hate being told what to do but I love mentors. I am a warm, happy (even smiling!) girl who also feels great anger and struggles to forgive. I could go on.

What do you think about hypocrisy? Where is the line between common, every man variety of hypocrisy and the type that Jesus warned against?  When does it become repulsive and at the least irritating? Is it perhaps the vibrato with which a person declares their character (such as sounding a trumpet)? If someone is very fervent in their perfection do we hold their conduct to a higher standard?  Probably but I think there is more to it than that.  I think hypocrisy is the kind of thing that is easy to ignore in yourself but feel appalled by in others.

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5

So what can we do to be less hypocritical and more authentic? What do you think? My Dad is an extremely honest man who is totally comfortable in his own skin. He is also a man of constant self-examination.  Meaning he wants to be better, he thinks about how he can do things better and then he does it to the best of his ability.  He then is almost always happy with his effort.

Maybe being aware of your hypocrisy and striving to reduce is the key?  Maybe a constant effort to purify our hearts and behaviors of negative tendencies makes those around us less likely to apply the label of hypocrite?  Is this just the process of thwarting the natural man, making the hypocritical parts of ourselves smaller and less pronounced the older we get?

I wonder if the problem with hypocrisy is tied to judgement, either with ourselves or others.  That we judge something to be negative or evil and yet we are not perfect ourselves? Perhaps hypocrisy itself is not bad, only when the ‘pot calls the kettle black’ in judgement?

“We are all hypocrites. We cannot see ourselves or judge ourselves the way we see and judge others.”

Jose Emilio Pacheco

Or are we as human beings diametrically opposed to balance?  Meaning we have left brain/right brain mentalities that are by nature opposed.  This creates conflict with our behavior.  Maybe despite all we can do all of us are a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?

“All of us have to be prevaricators, hypocrites, and liars every day of our lives; otherwise the social structure would fall into pieces the first day. We must act in one another’s presence just as we must wear clothes. It is for the best”

O. Henry

What do you think?  How do you judge someone to be a hypocrite and how do you feel about your own hypocrisy?  This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately and forgive me if the above post was a bit esoteric but it was just the way my mind has been contemplating the subject.

I would love your feedback and I promise I won’t find it a bit hypocritical! 🙂

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