Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Am a Hypocrite

If we want to be perfectly honest about it, nearly everyone is a hypocrite. None of us are perfect, so no one who strives to live an ethical life can live up to their own morals completely. The bigger question for me is how much of a hypocrite I am. How often do my actions deviate from my beliefs? Do I notice when I'm being hypocritical, or am I in denial about it? Am I taking steps to improve my hypocrisy record, or am I just sweeping my failures under the rug?

In order to stop being hypocritical, I first have to admit when I'm being a hypocrite, and that can often be the hardest part. 'Hypocrite' is considered a really offensive term in our society, so we often feel driven to defend ourselves against being branded hypocrites instead of honestly examining the circumstances under which we actually are hypocrites. If I really want to stop being hypocritical, then I have to stop getting angry when people call me on my hypocrisy. If others call me a hypocrite, it's far more constructive for me to ask them to elaborate than it is for me to instantly deny it. Maybe they have some criticism to offer that I need to hear in order to improve.

I've discovered that one of the biggest problems with hypocrisy is that trying to cover it up or deny it usually leads to even more hypocrisy. After all, if I lash out at someone who is offering a valid criticism of my conduct, then I am betraying my beliefs once again. Every time the Pharisees and chief priests took offense when Jesus called them hypocrites, they became even bigger hypocrites. Hypocrisy is very dangerous for Christians because it blinds us to the truth and alienates us from the God who saves us. Just as hypocrisy drove the Pharisees and the chief priests to reject the only person who could free them from their sin, our hypocrisy drives us away from God's saving love.

It's true that I am a hypocrite sometimes. Instead of denying it, I will endeavor to critically examine my behavior against my beliefs so that I can fall into the trap of hypocrisy less often. When I admit my hypocrisy and apologize for it, I rob hypocrisy of its power to mislead me. I believe that there is never any harm in honest and sincere discussion about personal conduct. Even if I don't agree with the person who is calling me a hypocrite, their observations (especially if offered in a respectful manner) still give me a useful opportunity to really think about my beliefs and my behavior.

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