Friday, March 15, 2013


There are some words in the English language that when used, arouse strong reactions from the receiver of those words. Hypocrite is perhaps one of the most hated of these words. When used against you, it is a terrible dagger that attempts to discredit and shame you. When used by you, it is your weapon to do the same in return. And, no matter if it is true or not, just to have someone call you a hypocrite leaves a bad feeling in you. It is as if the word has some magical power in it that creates a dark spot inside you. And how do you defend it? It's difficult, right?!

So I have given a lot of thought about this word. Not too long ago, I got into long discussion with a friend from my late teens. He and I had attended church together, played basketball together, sang together, and in general, had spent a lot of time together as good friends. We supported each other and wanted the success of the other. And then here we were, years later, having a very tough discussion about religion and the sentiments of our younger years had changed drastically.

Since those days, I had moved away and we didn't see or hear from each other for many years. Facebook became a great vehicle for finding lost friends, like this one. We connected there and reminisced. His story was very different than mine. He had left our church, joined the military, and in general had become quite angry and bitter toward religion. He wasn't just an atheist now, he was actively anti-religion.

It was hard to read his posts, sometimes multiple times daily, that insulted the religious and campaigned against it. He found a way to blame every bad and tragic thing in history on religion. It was not just hard because I am very religious, but because I had grown up in the Church with him and knew of his spirit back then - a good spirit that was fun-loving and sincere. He used to be a young man with hope and kindness and love for his religion and for God. I know this because I had heard him testify of his knowledge of God and His goodness on numerous occasions. And now he had pushed that all out and the softness of his soul that used to be so obvious, was gone.

Instead, his tone was angry, bitter, condescending, insulting, and hurtful. Worse, he had taken such a strong stance against it, that he couldn't even spare me his insults and criticisms. he couldn't just be happy that I was happy and living my life as a good citizen.

So finally, we were in this long, tough discussion in which I confronted him about the whole issue, wondering why he would so openly attack things he knew were sacred to me and that ultimately helped me be a better person. He was very defensive and quickly turned to his normal insulting, critical, and condescending approach. It didn't go very well. There was nothing I could say and so I stopped talking (chatting in Facebook) and he ranted for a long time, ending with this last phrase...

"I show kindness to people who deserve it. People who spend their time and tithing dollars on restricting the liberty of others while enjoying their own don't deserve kindness. They deserve pity at best."

I was stunned that a meaningful friendship from before could become so broken because my friend had decided to believe something different.

Well, in that conversation, I was called delusional, self-righteous, and lastly, a hypocrite. Hypocrite…ugh…not that word.

I’ve had many atheist and anti-religious friends over the years. And for some reason, that word always comes up. Hypocrisy.

Why is it that the non-religious somehow seem to think that hypocrisy is the exclusive problem of the religious? That word becomes their way of making an argument when they can’t win an argument with their logic set against someone who accepts a completely different set of truths.

What I want to say is that 1) hypocrisy is really a very misused word, 2) It is not exclusive to one group or belief sets, and 3) hypocrisy is a terrible word, because hypocrisy is in itself, terrible.

1)     Hypocrisy is a misused word

A lot of times, hypocrisy is used to describe when someone does something contrary to what they say they believe. In the way it is commonly used, if I say I don’t believe in lying, but then I lie – I would be a hypocrite.

BUT, that is actually not true – and that is not what hypocrisy is.

Wikipedia does a good job of summarizing what it actually means:

“Hypocrisy is the state of promoting or trying to enforce standards, attitudes, lifestyles, virtues, beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually hold.”

Notice, it isn’t about whether I DO what I say I believe. It is about saying I believe something and promoting that belief when in fact I don’t actually believe it.

So, just because a person can’t always act the way they believe and promote, doesn’t make them a hypocrite. It only makes them Human and imperfect like all of us.

2)     It is not exclusive to any group or belief set

Viewing our new found understanding of the word, it is easy to see how the term can be applied to anyone and any group. But I honestly think true hypocrisy is rarer than the word is used – at least among most of us. Most of us have true beliefs that we sometimes have a hard time living up to. That’s kind of what life is all about. I mean, Christ has asked us to be perfect even as He is. And I believe that we should be. But I promise you that I will fail to be perfect – yet that doesn’t make me a hypocrite, because I really do believe it and I am actively trying to live up to those beliefs. The need to repent is not a sign of hypocrisy.

3)     It is a truly terrible thing

So this brings us to the reason I wrote this post…

Hypocrisy truly is a terrible thing. Why? Because it is a deliberate lie. It is saying and promoting something in order to manipulate something or someone. It is the act of using a belief to accomplish perhaps the opposite of that belief. That is a truly bad and terrible thing.

So my friend…I unfriended him in Facebook and I haven’t heard from him since. Part of me still hurts that it occurred as it did. But, I have to live in positive circles and surround myself with people who at the least can respect me and my beliefs – even while completely disagreeing with them.

I’ll agree that there have been many hypocrites in history related to religion…but…

don’t you see the irony in my friend’s argument now?

Even if Hitler or Stalin were religious…if they were hypocrites (which is what non-religious folks often say), then by definition, they weren’t truly religious – remember, hypocrites proclaim and promote beliefs that they don’t actually hold. Nice irony, eh?!

Also, notice that he said I deserved no kindness because I used my resources to restrict the rights of others while protecting mine (paraphrasing).  But by campaigning against religion, isn’t he also then saying I shouldn’t have the right to believe what I want? Couldn’t I believe in the Almighty Rubber Duck and build a temple to the duck and promote yellow and still be within my rights?

You see, he says that he believes all should have rights, but really believes only the rights he agrees with, right? Isn’t that kind of like…hypocrisy?

Well, lest I sound too critical of my friend and angry toward him, let me close with this…

I still love my friend. I will always try to remember him as a happy, kind, and complimenting young man. It saddens me that we couldn’t find a way to have a real dialogue about life. And in the end, I do believe hypocrisy is a terrible thing. Honestly, I think the tragedy in this story is that my friend is a victim of hypocrisy. You see, somewhere deep inside himself, there is that small light still there, like a spot he can’t get rid of. It reminds him of when he felt that burning that he still can’t explain. It reminds him of love of all, and love of God, which I know he once felt.

Perhaps the worst part of hypocrisy is when you can’t see it, when it deceives you to the point where you even forget who you truly are.

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