19 January 2016

Admitting hypocrisy


I don't like knowing some things about myself. I know those things I do when I'm alone; I sometimes appreciate them. And I know what I have promised and commitments I've made. And I sometimes keep them. And sometimes I fail. That's the human condition. "To err is human," the Bard reminds me. But that doesn't mean I like to fail. Or want anyone else to know that I fail.

Edmund Burke said, "Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises, for never intending to go beyond promise, it costs nothing." But I don't imagine myself as such. I actually intend to go beyond promise. I actually intend to perform vows and my own words. "I give you my word" is not a couched fingers-crossed intentional deception. It's a plan; it's a promise. And yet...

I love the phrase/ thought of American politician (from decades ago), Grover Norquist who said, "Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue." Ouch. I don't want that tribute to be lip-service only. I want to be honest to goodness. I want to live what I say I will live. But Shakespeare was right, you know?

So what's a man to do? If I admit that I'm a hypocrite, am I still a hypocrite? Can hypocrisy be diminished by lowering my vows/ promises to the point of no one expecting anything from me? Is that a good solution? Was it Carl Jung who attributed hypocrisy to those who are not aware of the "dark or shadow-side of their nature"? But I am deeply aware of my dark side, so does that still make me a hypocrite?

The word 'hypocrite' comes from two Greek words, hupo and krino. Under and judgment. and has the notion of pretence.
I like the Wuest's note here which says, "a two-faced person; a "hypocrite," whose profession does not match their practice – i.e. someone who "says one thing but does another." So my question remains, "If I lower my profession, am I still a hypocrite?"

Yesterday I was in Tasmania and sitting with a few friends when a young woman and her dog sat next to us in the outdoor cafe. She was a lovely person and the dog was cute, too. We began a conversation which lasted probably longer than any of us anticipated. She had some ideas about God and Bible which were different than ours, yet the conversation was irenic and pleasant. She didn't agree with us, on most things, but there was something I said, which I don't remember ever saying to anyone before. I was referencing the book by Timothy Keller "The Reason for God" which I often recommend. I gave a series of talks from the book a couple years ago (Find the podcasts I led on Keller here .)

One of the characteristics I see in Keller is that he is a humble person. I admire that and hope to get there one day. So when I told the young woman about the book, about Keller's attempts to answer objections to people who ask about God and suffering and such, and that Keller admits that he doesn't know everything, she replied, "Aha! All Christians say that. And that's a cop out." She went on, "when coincidences happen which are good, you attribute those to God. But when things go badly, you don't have an answer, and you won't blame God for those." In other words, the suffering in the world, the plights of humankind in poverty and hunger, the 'bad' is unattributable. What I said next was new, and was something with which she agreed.

But first...what would you say?

I said, "Look, what kind of person would you like to learn from? Those who are know-it-alls or those who admit that they don't know everything? I suspect that you prefer humble people to people who are up themselves, am I right?" And she agreed with me. And I agreed with me. And my friends agreed with me. And now I wonder if you agree with me?

So is it still hypocrisy to live a little under our own judgment? Is it two-faced to fail now and then? Or is hypocrisy less condemning to me than I was thinking earlier? I certainly don't want to justify doing wrong, but is failure necessarily hypocrisy?

Four years ago, a Catholic priest wrote a blog on hypocrisy which I really appreciate. There Msgr Pope says, "[Hypocrites] are willing to adapt themselves often in dramatic ways to win approval. They are willing to play many roles and wear many masks to give the audience what they want. They are like actors on a stage, who seek applause or perhaps laughter and approval. Notice the way Jesus describes the heart of hypocrisy:
"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them;'….The Lord goes on to say that they 'blow a trumpet so that others will see them giving alms,' they pray ostentatiously so that others may see they are praying, and they alter their appearance so that others may see they are fasting.
The heart of hypocrisy – Thus, the goal of such a person is to be seen." I also appreciate all the comments people made to Pope's blog. If you have time, read his comments and theirs. I think it will clarify this whole idea of hypocrisy. At least it may help. I hope so.

Let's help each other listen more to each other, and to believe the truths of the Scripture. Let's repent of our failures and admit those quickly to God and to those we hurt. That's not hypocrisy; that's good news. God is a forgiving God.

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