Fun With Hypocrisy

It seems like whenever I hear anyone talking about hypocrisy it is kind of a downer. But, since we are all wandering in the same hypocritical wilderness, I figure that if I can laugh about my own hypocrisy, then it will make yours look worse by comparison.

The idea that we are all hypocrites is not my idea. I’ll gladly pass that off to then-President Uchtdorf who said, “If you define hypocrite as someone who fails to live up perfectly to what he or she believes, then we are all hypocrites. None of us is quite as Christlike as we know we should be.” (link). (I did write a post about that long ago.)

My first thought was that we could have hypocrite support groups! Maybe something like this:

A dozen men and women sit in a circle, on folding chairs, in the cultural hall. One leads the discussion.

Bro. Facilitator says, “Brother Bob, it has been good to see you here at our HA meeting the past few weeks. Do you think you are ready to share with us?”

Bob rubs his sweaty palms on his knees and nods. “Hi everybody. My name is Bob, and I’m a hypocrite.”

The others respond in unison, “Hi, Bob!”

Bob continues, “I’ve been a hypocrite for as long as I can remember. Man, It feels good to just get that off my chest.”

Bro. Facilitator asks, “Is there anything in particular that brought you here?”

“Well, a few weeks ago, I was out mowing my lawn on a Sunday morning and I saw my neighbor, Dave, drive by, pulling his boat. I mean, it was obvious he was ditching church to go to the lake.”

“And how did that make you feel?”

“Well, I felt bad that I was judging him., but I also realized that I was a little jealous.”

Bro. Facilitator asks, “How do you think we, as a group, could help you?”

Bob said, “I was hoping the group could give me ideas on how to get Dave to stay home from the lake on Sundays, so that I won’t have to judge him.”

On second thought, a group like “Hypocrites Anonymous” wouldn’t really work. There are just too many of us, and I don’t know how seriously anyone would take a support group whose acronym was “HA.”

You might be wondering what got me thinking about this stuff. I was chatting with a friend, and something came up that pointed out the hypocrisy of some people. My friend said, “Yeah, they are such Pharisees.”

I thought, “Whoa! That is quite an escalation!” To equate day-to-day hypocrisy with the Pharisees’ special brand of hypocrisy is a stretch, and not even very accurate. Those guys were bad news. They even got under Jesus’ skin, as recorded in the Gospels.

(Before I cite those scriptures, I feel I should warn some readers. There are lots of memes running around social media that say lovely things like, “Jesus spent his life being kind to others,” and “Jesus did not judge people, he washed feet.” Those memes, while very sweet, were obviously written by people who have never actually read the New Testament.)

The whole chapter of Matthew 23 is essentially Christ venting at the Pharisees. He says, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” four times, and even goes as far as to say “therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.” Sounds like judgment to me.

He speaks of them with graphic descriptions, as being “like unto whited sepulchers which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” Yuck.

I’m not aware of any other people that incurred the Savior’s wrath like the Pharisees did. So, lumping run-of-the-mill hypocrites into that category is quite a leap.

The problem is, when we want to point out how hypocritical someone is, how can we do it without resorting to “Defcon 1” and trotting out the word “Pharisee”?

Well, funny you should ask. To make it easier to assess hypocrisy, I’ve developed a “Hypocrisy Meter,” which can help us identify how hypocritical we are, to use as a frame of reference when we are judging other people’s level of hypocrisy. Genius! Right?

I figured it should work like Defcon, with the highest degree, Level 1, reserved for the Pharisees. Let’s go through a version of the scale and see how it works: (You can make your very own Hypocrisy Meter, if you want, and change up the order, too!)

  • Level 10: Believes in “honoring, obeying and sustaining the law.” – speeds on the freeway
  • Level 9: Tells people “You’re in my prayers” – doesn’t pray for them

See? Not so bad so far. Can you figure out your level?

  • Level 8: Attends church and keeps the Sabbath holy – except on vacation
  • Level 7: Loves his neighbor – creates a hypocrisy meter, just for fun

Oh, crud! That would be me.

  • Level 6: Sustains local leaders – refuses church callings
  • Level 5: Pays tithes (or doesn’t) – criticizes how the funds are spent
  • Level 4: Covenants to keep the commandments – picks and chooses which ones to keep.
  • Level 3: Sustains prophets and apostles – refuses to accept The Family: A Proclamation
  • Level 2: Walks away from sacred covenants – blames hypocrisy of church members***
  • Level 1: Pharisees.

*** Special award for most ironic.

With a handy system like this, we can know our place. If I want to criticize someone for being a hypocrite, I don’t need to jump straight to “Pharisee!” Instead, if I’m a “Level 7”, then levels 6 up through 1 are surely fair game. I wouldn’t want to pass judgment on anyone at levels 8-10, because I’d be judging unrighteously, and I never want to do that. Right?

Of course, there is another way to look at hypocrisy:

Elder Jeffrey Holland taught that “every one of us aspires to a more Christlike life than we often succeed in living. If we admit that honestly and are trying to improve, we are not hypocrites; we are human.” (link)

Honestly?” Trying?” How in the world am I supposed to be able to gauge effort and intent…?

Oh…umm… well…doesn’t that just take the wind right out of my sails and suck the fun right out of all this? There is absolutely no satisfaction in gossiping about someone and concluding, “That guy isn’t living up to his beliefs, he sure is human.”

I guess the Hypocrisy Meter might not be the way to go. Is anybody free to host a “HA” meeting later today?


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  1. This post is hilarious and thought provoking at the same time! Way to go!

    I was just talking to a never been active friend of mine who thinks people who go to church are self righteous (I felt impressed she felt comfortable enough to tell me that since I go to church regularly). I was able to bear my testimony to her, right there in the sauna, that we were all in need of the Atonement. I told her I don’t think any less of her for not participating in the restored gospel but found that going to church helped me want to make better choices. I hope she felt the spirit that I felt.

  2. Hypocrisy isn’t about not living up to my beliefs (none of us do), but in finding fault with others for doing the same thing I do.

    1. I would disagree. At its most basic,”hypocrisy is claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform.” (Dictionary)
      It really has nothing to do with anyone else – it is a personal battle. It can extend towards outward criticism, but the core is that we don’t live up to what we say we believe.

  3. Isn’t church a HA meeting? I’m there to take the sacrament to renew my covenants because I failed to live them perfectly. I didn’t even always do my best. However, I didn’t give up, so I got that right.

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)