Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma

The World Demands Hypocrisy

We are all hypocrites. That should come as no surprise to most of you. We all decry liars even as we all lie. We all demand perfection from others even as we fail to achieve it ourselves.

But hypocrisy is inherent in our nature. We are genetically wired for it and we’ll never be able to eliminate it from our society. Why? Because it actually works in most cases to advance our positions, to keep us in power or help us attain it.

Look at the simple lie. We tell our children to tell the truth. We ingrain in them that truth is the best policy and for the most part we believe that. But children soon discover what we learned in our youth: lies serve a purpose.

Sometimes lies are done for selfish reasons, to prevent being punished for doing something wrong or to bolster one’s standing by perhaps diminishing others’ respect for a rival.

And sometimes lies are done for selfless reasons, to prevent another from feeling bad by praising inferior work or maintaining their self-esteem. “It’s not you, it’s me,” is a common phrase for removing oneself from a relationship. Everyone knows it’s a lie, but it softens the blow of rejection.

The point is that lying often works. People – not just the liars but the recipients of the lies too – feel better as a result.

Or look at those on the opposite side of any political argument. We find that our opponents use bizarre logic to justify their positions, twisting the facts to reach conclusions they want to reach instead of allowing the facts to speak for themselves. The problem, however, is that they feel the same way about us.

Each side uses the facts that support its positions while discarding those facts that are inconvenient.

Political pork: bad. A government project in my neighborhood that brings stable jobs: good. Burdensome government regulations: bad. Forcing companies not to pollute our water: good. Increased property taxes: bad. Highly rated schools and a strong police force: good.

Consider the thrice-married Trump. A sexual predator, he won the support of evangelicals who decided he was better than Hillary (perhaps because he was anti-abortion and that trumps everything else) and voted for him despite declaiming the behaviors he proudly admitted to committing. That’s good hypocrisy!

There are so many examples of hypocrisy I won’t even attempt to list them all. But here’s the thing: we’re all hypocrites – and we all have to be hypocrites to survive, to get ahead in the world.

If you tell the truth all the time, you likely won’t get very far in your job. Telling the boss his idea is stupid will probably only get you fired. So you lie even though you’ve told yourself that lying is technically bad.

Hypocrisy, ultimately, is part of the human condition. So it’s okay to mock it, but maybe not as harshly as you wish to. Because we all imbibe from that stream.

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