Saturday, 28 April 2007

The essence of hypocrisy

Websters (1828) states the meaning of hypocrisy.
  1. Simulation; a feigning to be what one is not; or dissimulation, a concealment of one's real character or motives. More generally, hypocrisy is simulation, or the assuming of a false appearance of virtue or religion; a deceitful show of a good character, in morals or religion; a counterfeiting of religion.

  2. Simulation; deceitful appearance; false pretence.
Oftentimes a philosophy can be ridiculed by pointing to the hypocrisy of its followers. While the truth of a philosophy stands on its own merits, and the ridicules may just be a easy way to dismiss something that one doesn't like, people's responses to a belief system are frequently coloured by the behaviour of its practitioners.

My concern is that anyone who does something that they otherwise condemn is labelled a hypocrite. This is understandable and there may be some hypocrisy involved but it is not the essence of hypocrisy. It is possible the person is anything but a hypocrite. Because we are fallen we struggle with sin. So we all battle not to do what we think is wrong. We have a concept of morality and many attempt to live by their consciences. Failing to do so is sin. Dennis Prager wrote about this at the time of the Haggard scandal.

If I condemn what I do I am not a hypocrite I am a sinner. If I condemn it in you but conceal that I do it I am a hypocrite. But the essence of hypocrisy, and why it is especially odorous, is when someone claims that his behaviour is acceptable but another's is not when the first person is doing exactly the same thing. I justify my own sin by appealing to special reasoning but condemn you for yours. No wonder Jesus had little time for it and spoke harshly against its practitioners.

This is not to say that there are no circumstances where something is allowed for one group and not another. And situations may be truly different (parents and children). But be careful you are not inventing reasons so as to justify your own sin. And if you do think that there are legitimate reasons for your behaviour when it is usually not allowed, be very sure of your reasons and be very slow to condemn others when they do the same.

1 comment:

  1. I knew what hypocrisy meant. But was always a bit muddy. Thanks to your little passage here i am better clarity. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete

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