Monday, July 03, 2006

What is a hypocrite?

I was thinking about this the other day. I think we all have our own pet hypocrisies. Does this make us all hypocrites?

While reading a great book called The Life You Save Might Be Your Own, about the Catholic writers, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Flannery O'Conner, and Walker Percy, I was challenged by Day's resolute pacifism. She almost destroyed her organization, the Catholic Worker, and her own reputation, but continuing in her pacifism even amidst compelling arguements for the "just war" theory preceeding and throughout World War II.

If war is to be justified you would think that with the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbour, and the march of Hitler, would be a very strong case study. And I wondered how I would handle such a situation.

And that got me thinking...

I really do believe in pacifism. Maybe not extreme pacifism, I would defend innocents with as little force as was necessary. I believe it is the way of Christ, and find it hard to justify killing or even injuring our enemies that we are called to love, and pray for. But as much as I believe in this, I must admit I would most likely not follow my beliefs in certain circumstances. Infact, if I am honest, I would probably be provoked to violence even without the threat of physical harm. And though I am sure I would feel incredible guilt afterwards, I do believe I would have trouble curtailing my natural reactions. Now this brings up two questions. The first we will leave for now, but it is this: If this is true do a really believe in pacifism?

But assuming that I do, (which is a big assumption), the second question is: Does this make me a hypocrite?

I am not sure it does. I think it makes me someone who admittedly cannot live up to their own values and ideals. Though I truly hope if it comes to it, I can resist my urges and do the right thing, I think it is quite possible I would not. I also think if it involved my wife or my daughters, I would definately live outside of my ideal.

So what is a hypocrite? I think a hypocrite would be someone who does not admit their own fragile nature, and also demands a lifestyle of others that they themselves cannot live. And that it seems requires a self absorption so complete that you cannot really look at yourself in truth. In my life the longer I dwell in the truth the more I realize what a flawed and imperfect vessel I am. And though I am frequently disappointed and even frustrated with others that I feel are not truly making an effort, I understand that living in righteousness is something that we may forever strive for, yet never completely realize.

Ofcourse this definition of hypocrite lets me off the hook...

which is why I hold it ofcourse :)

the rev


LovesTha said...

I like your definition, anything else requires us to either be hypocrite when we offer critisism of someone else if we aren't perfect in that respect our selves. I can't believe society can function if we don't help each other strive to be better.

Rebecca said...

I like your definition too.

I'm still very committed to the idea of pacifism, but having been to the Solomons and seen the impact of RAMSI (and I am definitely far from uncritical of RAMSI!), I find it harder to be so anti-armed forces now.

Digger said...

Yeah makes sense to me, a mate of mine once said, 'people's actions will always fall short of the values and beliefs that influence them' but then there is a point where you can just use this approach as an excuse.

ie, if you have trouble with drinking, it would be being a hypocrite if you chastised others for drinking, then continually put yourself in places where you were likely to fall, and kept making the same mistakes.

Good thoughts though bro

urbanmonk said...

I think its often a case of a lack of self awareness that leads to acts of hypocrisy, which is why it so often seems to be Christians and religious people that engage in it :0