When I was a young lad, I learned that hypocrisy is a bad attribute. Jesus did not like hypocrites—mostly leaders who were not practicing true religion. In high school, I was taught an added fact: Most of us are hypocrites in one way or the other, me included. Now hypocrisy came home, but with a double-standard irony: Others’ duplicity was easier to see and condemn than my own. Some hypocrites, it seemed, might be worse than others—so it still seemed right to think poorly of such people.
In these later years, I still retain the urge to ferret out, name and punish hypocrites. And it doesn’t take much digging to find folks filled with pretense, a lack of probity, downright two-facedness and insincerity. Jesus still condemns hypocrites, and so can I.
One problem: Now well into these later decades of life, I’ve managed to hold on to my own lack of integrity, retaining the attitudes and skills of hypocrisy. There are times when I can still be duplicitous, still say one thing and do another, still speak out of two sides of my mouth. On some days, my lifestyle can still be bedeviled by anachronisms, contradictions and downright lies. I am probably still one of those people I name as less-than-admirable.
When I was young, I thought most hypocrites were older. (The Pharisees Jesus exposed as religious shams were probably old guys in pretentious clothing.) Now that I have arrived at that stage in life, I can look back and see that hypocrisy is not age-related. And I’m wondering if this might be the time in my life when I can finally shed some of the skin of my hypocrisy in order to find the kind of elemental honesty that Jesus encouraged. To say that another way: Is there something in being older that can help me stop being so hypocritical?
Some possibilities come to mind….
• If I truly believe that I’m beyond the age when others’ opinions drive my own behaviors, is it possible that attitude could free me from trying to be something I’m not?
• There are a lot of high-integrity people in my life, many of them my age or older. It might be wise to talk with them—honestly, of course—about that part of their character. To learn from them.
• Perhaps there could be a way—a conversational meme?—that would encourage others to gently (or forcibly) chide me when my duplicities are ruining our relationship.
• At this time in life, I have plenty of time to read. Writing about the Christian life—notably filled with integrity—is readily available. More of this reading might help. Fiction, poetry and social criticism could be some possible categories.
• It could still be helpful to apply my hypocrisy-ferreting skills, but not for the purpose of condemnation any more. More useful: Reminding myself NOT to behave in these ways!
• Could I work on developing a set of relational strategies that could gently name or warn about hypocritical behaviors, in conversations or large-group settings?
• My older adult prayers could more regularly include words of confession and need about this matter.
• If given their permission, I might keep hypocrisy-diminishment as a part of my mentoring relationships with younger folks.
How about your older-adult wrestlings with two-facedness? How have you learned to put your faith into practice here? Can you tell me whether there’s something especially useful or hopeful about this matter now that we’re older? Can you point me to authors whose thoughts could be helpful? I’d like to hear from you. And remember to speak with candor, integrity, honesty, directness, sincerity and forthrightness.
We hypocrites need that….
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