Have you ever wondered what you look like to someone else? It is easy enough to see what others look like to each one of us. And we are all too eager to label them through the lens of our own views.
But have you ever stopped to think about whether or not your actions and words reflect what you proclaim is your core value?
Seeing ourselves for what we are is not an easy thing to do. But if we want to grow spiritually, we must do a self-examination daily. And our examen should include that input received from others outside our own head.
A hypocrite is someone who espouses one set of values, but lives a different set outside of view of others. Even outside of a view of themselves.
I spoke of the mobile home dealer when, complete with fish symbol on their website and prayer services in their office, regularly cheated his customers. While I cannot judge the individual’s relationship with God, I can judge his actions and their effects to those around him.
Yet am I someone who is more holy than he is? The answer is a resounding “NO!” Perhaps not in the same areas do I reveal a hypocritical spirit, but in oh so many other ways.
And I know that I am not alone.
Despising our own values…
A person who is a deceiver often times doesn’t recognize their own hypocrisy. In their own blindness, they perform actions that reveal what is deeply rooted in their own heart. And they brush off those around them who try to point out the differences in what they proclaim and how they act.
The reality of their offense is often too painful to face. So the typical response is defensiveness or acting the role of someone who has been wrongly accused.
And when a person refuses to correct their hypocritical behavior, they reveal what is residing inside of them. They show that their core belief is that they are always right.
If they refuse to take responsibility for their hypocritical attitude, it hardens their resolve to blame others instead of seeing themselves through the eyes of others. And it is in that refusal that they will harden their hearts and never desire to correct their faults.
In order to resolve the issue of being hypocritical (as with any other weakness in our character), we must first recognize that we are human. All humans fail. And we are pretty dense when it comes to understanding how we impact the lives of those around us.
After recognizing the problem, a modicum of compassion for ourselves for being so weak is the first step toward healing.
The second step is to do something about it.
Sometimes it takes a while to sink in. We are dense creatures – especially concerning our own failings. But once it becomes glaringly obvious that the problem or bad habit exists, and we are willing to acknowledge it, then we can address it. For we cannot change what we do not know.
At that point, the realization of our failings can stir us to discover the root of our unfaithfulness to our own core values. Or create a willingness seek wise counsel to help us. Then we can unpack the issues preventing us from correcting our ways. It is only then can we really change.
But we must be open to accept the painful truth. And because we are humans, that first step is always the hardest.
And often the step that many refuse to take.
My favorite saint of all times is a great example of this. Saint Peter, who later was the Rock upon which was built Christ’s Church, was a horrible hypocrite. With all his prideful bluster, he proclaimed to Our Lord’s face that he would never betray Him or leave Him.
By the time the cock crowed the next morning, he’d already denied Christ three times.
But Jesus, in His patience with Peter, came up to him after He rose from the dead, and forgave him of his shortcomings. Even though it hurt Him deeply as He faced His Passion alone and betrayed by one closest to Him, He was still merciful to Peter, understanding the weakness of his humanness.
Even when Paul corrected Peter quite forcefully, Peter took the correction and accepted the redirection. His willingness to change was what made him a Saint.
We are like Saint Peter…
Don’t we do the same thing in our own actions when we declare our Faith, then turn around and use profane language at our kids or coworkers? Or act like golden cherubs in front of fellow parishioners or coworkers, then backbite our friends or relations in private?
The problem with being a hypocrite doesn’t lie in our ignorance of our own hypocrisy. It lies in whether or not, once aware – really aware – of what we are, we refuse to change.
For like Saint Peter, and every other saint throughout history, none of them were perfect. Their perfection lay in whether or not they were willing to face their own weaknesses and do something about it. If they wanted to seek perfection, they were willing to work at it and lean on God’s Grace to help them do better. And they, by their own volition, would make it a practice to recognize their failings until they overcame their bad habits.
In our short lives, we are best suited and are happiest when we acknowledge our own faults and failings and work to overcome them. While we may not ever attain perfection in this lifetime, it is the striving to recognize those painful things and do something about it that separates the wheat from the chaff.
Just like Saint Peter. He made it to the eternal Finish Line. And if we are willing to change our lives for the better, we, too, will be able to reach sanctity.
But that will only take place when we accept our own imperfections and do something about changing them.