I Prefer Long-Distance Honesty to Nearby Hypocrisy
In an environment where hypocrites abound, sincere people are bad and the truth is our enemy. Because of that, long-distance honesty will always be preferable when our values clash with that enigmatical nearness that wears a mask of kindness and gilded armor behind which they hide falsity.
“Superstition and hypocrisy have ample wages, but truth goes a-begging.”
Interesting books such as “Anthropocenology,” embracing co-existence in the Anthropocene,” by scientists Michael Tobias Charles and Jane Gray Morrison, speak to us precisely about a very specific dimension: the hypocrisy of human beings. We continue to be that vertebrate species that says one thing and does another. Furthermore, it is very difficult for us to be in favor of co-existing with one another leaving cultural, social and gender differences aside.
We all know that it is not easy to establish distance from someone who does not please us or makes us uncomfortable. On occasion, we are obligated to share our space with that family member with the crazy ideas, or with that manager who does not measure up to our moral principles. However, what we can do is create an adequate space for self-preservation so that we do not ever fall into the unhealthy trait of hypocrisy.
In the Kingdom of Hypocrisy Only the Strongest Survive
In the Iliad, Achilles said that if there was something that made him uncomfortable more than the doors of Hades, it was people that said one thing and did something else. What we may not know is that we cannot exclusively blame the hypocrite for their behavior.
Hypocrisy is much more than the classic discord between our words and our behaviors. On occasion, the environment that surrounds us forces us to do act hypocritically. Every day, we are faced with a vital puzzle, the pieces are dispersed and we are forced to survive in complex social arenas. Almost without even noticing, sometimes, we end up doing things that do not harmonize with our principles, with our ideas or convictions.
Between what is thought, said and done, there can be an abyss, and by thinking that we do not want to deny our inner truth we end up doing just that due to the pressure from the world around us. This is what Leo Festinger defined as cognitive dissonance, namely, experiencing disharmony or a conflict within our system of ideas, beliefs and emotions (cognitions) to our conduct.
Now, despite that fact that a good part of our society is a breeding ground for us to behave as hypocrites, in reality, we can clearly differentiate two types. On the one hand, there are those who suffer that cognitive dissonance and decide to set limits to find the right balance between what is thought and what is done. On the other hand, there are many who simply understand life in this way. Discord ceases to exist when we allow a strong and clear cognition that what is done has meaning, and above all, purpose.
How to Protect Ourselves from Hypocritical Behavior
Practicing what we preach is not only an act of respect, but also of self-respect and personal well-being. We already know that all of us, in some way, have practiced this art at some point to fit in to a certain situation: a job, a party, or a family reunion.
If there is a clear and realistic purpose to cognitive dissonance, it is to ignite a psychological alert to inform us that the fine line that supports our values and conduct, is about to be crossed. Initiating a process of reflection can, without a doubt, save us from solidifying hypocrisy.
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
However…what can we do if there is an inveterate and corrosive hypocrite very near us? There are honest people, that upon just sensing something as simple as incompatibility in character and values, choose to put distance between them, but it is done with elegance and respect. No doubt, that is something we appreciate, but sadly, not everyone behaves with the same standards or good principles.
Without a doubt, the right thing would be for us to get far away so that we do not end up agreeing with them again. However, if that person is a family member, a work mate or your boss, it may not be so easy to buy the ticket of no return.
In these cases, the rule of the three “R’s” will be very useful to us:
- Don’t “Reinforce”: the hypocrite has every right to live their life around you, but we should never reinforce their behavior. Ideally we should be as stand-offish as possible with them, do not carry on deep conversations with them where we reveal personal things about ourselves and not place too much importance on what they say.
- “Respect them and Respect yourself”: Let the hypocrite be however they want to be, to do what they want, but always within their own sphere, do not ever allow them to enter into yours. Respect yourself and give them the proper importance without allowing them to affect your attitude.
- Do not “Renounce” your values: On occasion, when we spend a lot of time in an environment full of hypocrisy, it is common to sometimes fall into those same behaviors. Remember your values and principles and defend them although no one else understands them nor approves of them.
Last but not least, always remember that hypocrisy is camouflaged by kindness when convenient. Learn to be intuitive and cautious, and if the opportunity arises, do not hesitate to put the proper distance to allow you to recover your emotional and psychological completeness.