I, Hypocrite

I am a hypocrite. Yes, little old me, waxing philosophical is a stupendously foolish hypocrite. But is that bad?

I think most people would regard that as bad, but I’m not sure I agree—at least, not always. Let me explain.

Hypocrisy is usually defined as saying that someone (usually someone else) should do one thing while you go about and do the exact opposite.

One of the most common forms of hypocrisy (and perhaps the most infuriating) is moral hypocrisy where an individual claims to embrace a moral code they do not practice. But what if they try to practice that moral code and simply fail? For example, what of the Christian moral code? The most striking thing about the Christian code is how high and demanding it is. In fact, it may be so high and demanding that no one can live up to it. Hence, the accusation of hypocrisy can be leveled at all Christians. But if Jesus was divine as He claimed to be, then the source of the code He left behind for His followers is also divine. And if it is divine, it may very well be the case that no one can live up to the code. Does that make the code useless? No. It can still serve as a goal to strive for, but one accompanied by the understanding that it can never be fully reached. As men and women strive toward the code, they will necessarily improve, morally speaking, but they will never reach perfection. They will be hypocrites, all of them, but non-threatening ones. So, I would classify that as a kind of justified hypocrisy.

There is another form of hypocrisy that is inherently justifiable: that of hypocrisy by experience. Basically, in life we learn things—call them life lessons, if you will. Such life lessons may serve to change our behavior as we grow older, because we learn, morally speaking, that our previous behavior was bad by some measure. For example, suppose a woman at a young age gets pregnant and has an abortion. She comes to regret that decision and counsels others to not have abortions. Is she a hypocrite? In some sense, yes, but if you acknowledge that experience can change a person and teach them valuable lessons, you will realize that sometimes hypocrisy may simply indicate that a person has learned something of value and wishes to pass that knowledge on to someone else. And passing knowledge on to the young is not only a great service to those who make up the young, it is also a duty of those who are older.

Anyway, by both these measures, I acknowledge that I am a hypocrite. I’m not going to share the full list of all my particular failings with the world because that would make me feel uncomfortable; still, I feel inclined to acknowledge the simple fact of my hypocrisy. I leave others to their own self-reflection.

Yes, I tried to defend hypocrisy. Did I succeed? I’ll let you decide.

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