Hypocrisy seems to be one of those words that tends to be defined through a learned and intuitive contextual understanding; rather than through any dictionary. This ambiguity is even evident in dictionaries themselves. Here are a few examples:
Oxford Dictionaries – “the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case”
Dictionary.com – “a pretence of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess… a pretence of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude.”
Urban Dictionary – “George W. Bush… War on Terrorism”
Merriam-Webster – “a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially: the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion”
The way I grew to ‘define’ hypocrisy was by the colloquial saying “Say one thing; do another.” Though over the years, and this may be where my current interpretation fails, is that I do not only consider acts as being the conveyor of hypocrisy, but thoughts also. Defining it this way generally seems to help me. Being like most, I have many impetuously hypocritical thoughts daily, and am able to resolve many of them quite quickly with minimal considerations. Including hypocritical thought aids my understanding of my fellow human beings’ actions. We all think about anticipated actions before we actually do them. Although, even well-considered thoughts can have little effect on some voluntary actions. Despite this, breaking the barrier from thought to action is still the determiner of our judgement.
Another difference I would make with many of the definitions is the propensity towards hypocrisy’s attribution to ‘positive’ display. For example; instead of feigning virtue, it is also reasonable to assume that someone could feign abomination. I know this may be difficult for some to wrap their heads around, but if you consider such things as street gangs, soldiering, and politicking it is not hard to see the benefits that might be had by pretence if your contemporaries engage with a grotesque or perverted mindset.
Over the years I have done a pretty good job at overcoming a lot, and moderating some, of my hypocrisies. I believe it is wrong to be hateful, but I still get pretty near it when Simon Cowell is on the box; just as I believe the objectification of human beings to be wrong, but I still consider conservatives as being unprogressive barriers to social evolution. There are definitely a few more common hypocrisies of mine I could list, but these are easily reconciled with a little consideration. Just by remembering that Simon Cowell, and conservatives are people like me who have weighed up the pros and cons of life’s practicalities is usually enough to ground me. They may have erroneously decided that public ridicule, and social stagnation are the way forward, but these human foibles are ones that an individual can find redemption for.
My ‘big’ hypocrisy concerns flagrant cruelty. It manifests itself through my want to inflict the same method of cruelty on the perpetrators of cruelty. It is an impulsive reaction; one that overwhelms logic with almost every contemplation. Not only is a want to be cruel, to those who are cruel because they are cruel, a massive hypocrisy, but there are further contradictions.
I pride myself on being against prejudice. Yet, this hypocrisy is undeniably prejudiced. Cruelty is recognised by a lack of empathy towards those who suffer. People who are deficient in or lacking empathy, like psychopaths and those with Borderline Personality Disorder, are regarded as having a neurological disability. Therefore, my prejudice and lack of empathy towards those who are cruel with mental disability or illness should be, and are, anathema to my senses of compassion and tolerance. I have never had to react to flagrant cruelty, and I can only hope that I never have to.
This remains the only hypocrisy that really troubles me. I have tried to convince myself that any potential action of cruelty is equivalent to violence against cruelty, but I believe enjoyment would negate this. I also fear that my own empathy towards others would be irretrievably diminished. Perhaps that is why I find it so alarming when I see people like politicians trying to concertedly diminish their ability for empathy to facilitate the implementation of evidently detrimental policies, or right-wing extremists who perpetuate their own ignorance so they are able to disregard the suffering and persecution of their demonised cousins. If we dilute our empathy; we concentrate the ability to be cruel.
I am the hypocrite who will always strive against cruelty, yet cannot guarantee my virtues if I ever encounter it… However, I can guarantee I will continue to try not to be that hypocrite.