This is a bullet most often dodged by failing to claim any set of moral expectations lest ye be judged – but is that the best option? I think almost everyone would agree that society is best served if all married people remained faithful to their spouses. If divorce was rare and adultery was unheard of society would flourish, families would thrive, life would be good. Whether you want to justify that based on a Judeo-Christian worldview or merely pragmatism, it is a point that is hard to argue with. Yet few are willing to truly take a stand on issues such as that because of the dreaded H-bomb. Somehow, being labeled a hypocrite became the worst thing that could happen to anyone, ever. Think about it. “Well, I may be a (fill in the blank) but at least I’m not a hypocrite.” How many times can we embrace behavior that should shame us and walk away feeling glad that at we’re not kidding ourselves about being any better?
I think we have begun to buy into the mischaracterization of what it means to believe something. I don’t care what you believe or how deeply you believe it, there will come a day that you, as a fallible, imperfect human being will fail to live up to that belief. It may be in a big public way or in a tiny private way that no one will ever know about. But that doesn’t make you a hypocrite – it makes you human. We have to begin allowing people to be human and still hold tightly to beliefs that aren’t easy and standards that aren’t low.
Hypocrisy means pretending to be something you are not. It does not mean holding to a standard of right and wrong that sometimes you fail to live up to. I believe murder is wrong. If I go out and kill someone, that doesn’t make me a hypocrite, it makes me a murderer. We need to stop brandishing that scarlet letter in the face of anyone who places upon society the expectation of good moral behavior. If we don’t, we may just end up patting ourselves on the back all the way to depravity, comforting ourselves at each new low point by saying “well, at least I’m not a hypocrite!”