One of the major themes I find in my social media theme is someone exposing the other side’s hypocrisy. This is a major source of internet traffic, and careers have been built on this. These people are who Amanda Ripley calls Conflict Entrepreneurs. I guess I must be looking at these posts, because I keep getting them, over and over.
But the problem with this is that it feeds division and makes us less likely to be generous with other people. It turns the other side into caricatures, not real people.
I am trying to figure out how to get over this for myself. First, I need to stop opening those messages so that I don’t feed the careers of those who sow division.
Second, I need to come up with a way to soften the other side in my mind. What I think might work is to recognize that we are all hypocrites. We live in a finite, imperfect world and all have to make trade-offs between the things we value. We can’t carry out all of them perfectly, that world doesn’t exist. We may recognize this in ourselves and give ourselves a break, but then hold others to a higher standard. If I recognize that they are also making trade-offs, maybe that will help soften me.
Third, I can’t help thinking about the emphasis on Integrity (being consistent inside and out) that has played out in the history of my faith community (Quakers). Early in the development of the faith, there was a lot of preaching about the hypocrisy that was all around. But later on, one member of the community decided to carry the message about slavery among Quakers in the United States in a way that was different than the preaching that early Quakers did. John Woolman (1720-1772) decided to eliminate all slave goods from his life, walking everywhere he went, not using sugar or cotton (both slave goods), paying slaves for what they did for him. Then he visited Quaker enslavers to talk about slavery. He was kind and courteous, listening to them talk and using his example of not using sugar and paying their slaves for any labor they did to gently call attention to what was around them and the trade-offs they were making. Slaveowners were in an extremely difficult position, where their wealth would be wiped out if they set those people free and in some places, would be prosecuted for that. He didn’t yell or preach, he lived his own values and talked politely to others about them. He is credited with helping to end slavery among Quakers in the US.
Am I living my values? How do I deal with those who appear to not be living theirs? Can I be gentle, not preach and perhaps be more effective than preaching?
Here are my personal resolutions about hypocrisy.
1. Stop reading about others’ hypocrisy!
2. Become aware of my own shortcomings, where I don’t live out my values.
3. When I am tempted to focus on another’s hypocrisy, focus on my own instead. (There’s a Bible verse to that effect.)
4. Make changes to get closer to living out my values. If I can’t make them right away, how can I rearrange my life, so I get closer to them?
5. Only then, can I start a conversation with someone about the trade-offs we all make about living out our values. I can start with my own realizations and ask if they have any they want to talk about.
What are your resolutions?