To some degree, we are all hypocrites. We profess our faith and morals, but we struggle to live up to them. Yet we are judged, condemned, and dismissed.
According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of hypocrisy is “The false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion.” It derives from a Greek word meaning playing a part on the stage, pretending to be something one is not. If we follow Jesus and His example, we need to love all people. To love another is not necessarily a warm, fuzzy feeling, but rather a choice to ‘will the good of the other’ as Bishop Robert Barron often explains. We can say we do; we can have the intention of doing it; but when it comes down to the choices we make, do we always do it? Do we do it when we drive our cars? Do we do it when another annoys us? Or do we complain about others being in the way or gossiping about a negative encounter? If we don’t practice what we believe, doesn’t that make us hypocrites?
While we can realize what we have done, be remorseful and confess our shortcomings to Jesus, the hypocritical actions may have consequences we do not even realize. I’ve heard it said a number of times by those who do not profess any religion, that the reason is because of hypocrites. I’m not sure if they choose not to participate in a religion because they don’t want to associate with people they deem hypocrites or that they don’t want to be judged as one. Yet it’s very easy to look around our own parish family and pass judgement on those from whom we expect more charity. If a person is going through a difficult circumstance, we may be praying for them and choose to give them their space to work through it, or choose not to say anything so they will not be embarrassed. However the lack of action can be seen, and judged, as being lazy, cold or uncaring. Jesus warns us about passing judgement on others, lest we be judged.
Jesus, our just judge, often called the Pharisees hypocrites. He reprimanded their behavior, speaking plainly about it, so that we can learn from their mistakes. The first step, is not to judge another as a hypocrite, or even more, not to judge another’s actions at all, leaving that to Jesus.