I recently had a conversation with a woman that ended like this: “My husband made me into a hypocrite,” she said. To explain, this woman boycotts certain businesses, including Applebee’s, because of their financial support of a group whose agenda and lifestyle runs counter to her Christian values. Well, some friends of her and her husband provided a gift certificate for them to eat at Applebee’s. There were lengthy discussions between the couple about whether or not to accept this gift from their friends. Ultimately, the couple opted to dine at Applebee’s, but she felt like a hypocrite because of this.
Her comments struck a chord with me. I had lately been pondering writing a blog about trying not to be a hypocrite. As a teenager, I knew who the hypocrites were and I could name them. I still remember going into the post office in my hometown as a teenager and hearing the postal worker behind the counter state, “Well, they’re just not Christian.” It really bothered me how this man, who I then viewed as a “hypocrite,” could define who was and who was not a Christian.
These days, as a middle-aged adult, I realize there are a myriad of ways to fit into that category myself. It’s difficult to be a purist when it comes to avoiding hypocrisy. It’s kind of like the vegetarian who wears patent leather shoes to the office.
Just what is hypocrisy? One definition is “the false profession of desirable or publicly approved qualities, beliefs, or feelings, especially a pretense of having virtues, moral principles, or religious beliefs that one does not really possess.” A hypocrite, according to Webster’s, is “a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.”
A joke seems appropriate here. A man told a pastor, “I don’t go to church. It’s filled with hypocrites.” The pastor replied, “Don’t let that stop you. There’s always room for one more.”
When it gets down to it, most of us are hypocrites at one time or another. But the key is not simply to throw in the towel—to abandon the ship of our religious faith or values—because we fall short. Rather, we can simply acknowledge our shortcomings and strive to do better next time. Just because we fail in one instance, repeatedly fail, does not mean we are failures doomed to be hypocrites forever. It simply means that we are human, and we need forgiveness. And forgiveness is readily available at all times and in all places. We just have to ask for it—from our God, Heavenly Father, Savior, Allah, Higher Power, or whatever name we ascribe—and also pray for the strength and desire to become better people.
A prayer that an old cowboy friend of mine from Wyoming would begin each day with seems like a good start to avoiding hypocrisy. “Lord, it’s a wide world out there. Please guide my path.”
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what others may think or how they may judge us in our hypocritical moments. We will be the ones that have to face the man or the woman in the mirror.