I know it may seem that I just invented a new word – that wouldn’t be a first for me. Maybe somebody better let UrbanDictionary.com know. However, let me say that hypocrisis is actually a word, but its roots are not English or Germanic It originates from Late Latin usage, meaning “to play-act, pretend,” or “to play a part.”
The English version is the word hypocrite, meaning “to pretend to have a virtuous character, moral or religious belief or principle that one does not really possess.” It appears that there is a lot of that going on today, and hypocrisis does not appear to be the sole possession of The Canadian Actors guild. It appears that hypocrisy is a crisis affecting many people from all walks of life.
Hypocrisy is everywhere. The Church is facing it in its ranks. Sports heroes are infected with it. Political leaders are reeling. Hollywood can’t hide the damage inflicted when people try to keep up appearances. And, we can’t pretend that it is going to go away with a flick of a switch. People don’t just turn on integrity: you either have it, or you don’t.
If you don’t, and you want others to think you do, you wind up play acting, living a life of pretense, and sooner rather than later, the lie becomes hard to separate from the truth: people begin to live out the lie as a lifestyle. The sense evolution behind the word hypocrisis is that people begin to “separate gradually” from reality and start to “play a part.”
I believe that our culture is in crisis. It is difficult to find people who are worthy of our trust. Integrity appears to be in short supply. A person of integrity “steadfastly adheres to a strict moral or ethical code,” and over the long haul, that integrity or moral soundness is demonstrated in their life.
People of integrity are undivided: they are not two-faced; they do not play a part. Who they are on the inside and what you see on the outside are the same. Their judgment in the light is unimpaired by any inner darkness. They don’t have to act – they simply are who they are.
I have been a pastor for close to 35 years. I have heard it said that church is filled with hypocrites, that Christians are a bunch of hypocrites. Well, it’s true: I have to agree. However, hypocrisy is a church problem because it is a human problem.
I would be the first to admit my own struggle with hypocrisy. Every one of us has the daily task of closing the gap between what we know and how we live. I just happen to think that there are “honest hypocrites” who admit their personal need for help and realignment, and “dishonest hypocrites” who deny they have a problem.
I am constantly amazed at the willingness of Christians to go to church, week after week, and let someone confront their hypocrisy. I hang out with these people because we are trying together, with God’s help, to close the gap between confession and profession. I honor them as they face integrity audits within the context of relational and corporate accountability.
What really matters is the hypocrisis in our own lives. Live in pretense too long and you will gradually separate yourself from reality and start to live a lie too. One day, if it is not dealt with, it may be your undoing, whether in a private or public setting.