On Hypocrisy

This entry was posted by on Saturday, 3 September, 2011 at

There were several incidences of me being hypocritical in my previous post. There were going to be even more, but I did not manage to fit in all of the things that I was thinking about last week. Yet it started me thinking about what hypocrisy really is, or more accurately, what it is not.

According to Merriam-Webster, hypocrisy is: a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion.

This is actually a little bit different from my working definition. I think of hypocrisy as saying one thing but doing the opposite; specifically, condemning others for things that you also do yourself. The difference between the dictionary definition and mine is that theirs seems to mean an intentional deceit, whereas my definition could in some cases be interpreted as arrogant yet not dishonest. “It is O.K. for me to do that, but you can’t.”

If I criticize the actions and traits of others that I also despise about myself, should that be considered hypocritical? To me it just seems consistent, even if not particularly helpful. Or a situation that seems to come up often with political and public figures: if someone criticizes or condemns something with which they are (or have been) involved, is that hypocritical? Their opponents are always quick to claim so, but consider it like this: a smoker who tells others not to smoke might seem hypocritical, yet the very fact that they do it, they know that it is wrong, but they can not stop, actually makes their opinion more valuable.

If I do something and it turns out badly, then it seems reasonable for me to advise, possibly even demand, that others not do that. However, it is not always so clear cut. A particular decision yields some benefits and some disadvantages. Maybe you even readily admit that the disadvantages outweigh the benefits, yet you can not fully bring yourself to give up those benefits, so you find yourself trapped in that particular course of action. Weak… yes; lazy… perhaps. But is it hypocritical?

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