Hi, my name is Jess and I’m a hypocrite.
There. I’m so glad I got that off my chest. It was only a matter of time before the subject was bound to come up, and I would feel that familiar knee-jerk response to defend some statement or choice I’ve made in the face of accusations of hypocrisy, when truthfully, I would rather just acknowledge the truth up front.
I’m a hypocrite in myriad ways. I’ll share just a handful of examples, but trust me, there’s more where these came from. I believe that we use too many plastic bags at the grocery store, but I often forget my reusable bags and come home with my own armful of plastic ones. I believe that laborers should be paid fair and ethical wages, but I own clothing I bought at Target at prices too low to assure this is happening. I believe our dependency on fossil fuels and foreign oil is bad for both our planet and our national security, but one of my cars is a minivan.
And I know I’m not alone. The thing is, I don’t know anyone who is not a hypocrite in at least one area of life. And in the age of social media, the 24 hour news cycle and an internet capable of storing every written word forever, it is even easier to find examples of hypocrisy at the click of a mouse. Yet despite its prevalence in all our lives, hypocrisy has become the ultimate insult leveled against humanity. Hypocrisy is defined as” the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform,” That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. Basically, it’s a part of the human condition, yet most of us live in fear of it. And we are all worse off as a result.
There are really only two ways to avoid hypocrisy. The first is to attempt to align all of our actions to our values at all times. Many of us try to choose this path, but we continue to stumble through the journey because of our aforementioned humanness. Even our best examples on this path have been accused of hypocrisy and there is probably some truth in those accusations. If we choose this path, it’s unavoidable. The other choice is to lower our moral standards so far that no action could possibly fall outside of them. In an effort to avoid hypocrisy, we instead choose cynicism, apathy, even cruelty towards other humans, but at least we won’t be labeled hypocrites. Anything but that.
Friends, we’ve got to get over this. There are worse things than being a hypocrite. I’d rather own my hypocrisy and move forward than be reduced to inaction and apathy out of fear of it. None of our actions will ever be perfectly consistent, and when we choose our paths towards making the world a better place, we are certain to stumble and fall short in ways big and small. But we can stand back up, dust ourselves off, and do better next time, because failing on the road to a better world is a better choice than paving the smooth path to its destruction. Or, to put it in lovelier words than mine: “For all the risks of hypocrisy and ineffectiveness, it’s better to stand up inconsistently to some atrocities than to acquiesce consistently in them all.” – Nicholas Kristof
So, I’m a hypocrite. I’m also inconsistent, an idealist, a dreamer, a fool and a believer in ridiculous things like forgiveness and hope.
You too? Welcome to the club.