Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lowest-Common-Denominator Culture? Hypocrisy, Parenting, and Hope

Your dad caught you smokin’ and he said “No way”
But that hypocrite smokes two packs a day
Beastie Boys “Fight For Your Right (To Party)”

Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue

[Jane confronts Nick upon  discovering that Nick has slept with a girl  he previously referred to as a slut)
Nick: Yes,  but a very attractive slut.
Jane: So, you're just another hypocrite.
Nick: That's not hypocrisy. It's sin.
Metropolitan (film)

       Not so long ago, a young friend with a baby girl lamented some of the limitations on the way she was raising her daughter. She wanted to raise her with a better morality and spirituality than she felt capable of. I understand that concern, and I often share it. I think it’s one of the most inspiring parts of parenthood, honestly. It makes you want to be a better man/woman/what have you. And it can really lead you down a better path, as was the case for my own parents many others.  But I worry sometimes that people occasionally forgo that path because they are afraid of being called hypocrites.

      Seems like I’m always hearing a lot about hypocrisy. Sure hypocrisy is bad, and I don’t advocate it (as they say, do what I say, not what I do….) But that’s just it—all too often, the accusation of hypocrisy is just a cover. Back when I was teaching and this would come up (as it almost inevitably did) I would point out that the easiest way to avoid the charge of hypocrisy is to lower your standards. If you don’t think anything is wrong (or claim that anyway, ‘cause it’s always just a line), then no one can accuse you of hypocrisy. But is that really better for anyone? All too often, we use the charge of hypocrite to annihilate any standards—especially standards we don’t share. You say you believe in kindness? But you’re not kind. Hypocrite. Buh-bye kindness. But is this the world we want to live in? There is a big difference between hypocrisy and frailty.  I’ll take a world of so-called hypocrites who are really just fallen people failing the standards they truly believe in any day. Just please don’t give me a world of people who are oh-so-consistent with the utter degradation they preach.

      Let’s go ahead and face our fear of hypocrisy--which is really just a fear of failure—a failure which our enemies will insist on using against us. Hypocrisy is real. But it isn’t cured by lowering standards, but by true compassion. For others and ourselves.

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