Most of us are hypocrites. I’m sorry, but we are. Even the super virtuous really, really good people. It’s just the simple truth about human nature.
I mean, how many of us, at least in some small way, are guilty of the old Do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do? The majority of us, that’s how many. Especially us parents.
The way I see it, in our culture, hypocrisy exists in levels. Starting from the top (the top being the worst offenders), there are the Whitey Bulgers who murder and racketeer for a living but consider themselves “men of honor.” (Ok, Whitey, whatever you say, buddy [wink].) And corrupt cops. And priests who molest innocent boys. You get my point.
Then, you’ve got your high-profile politicians and your Bill Cosbys who preach high moral standards and family values right up until they’re caught in some grotesque sex scandal.
And lastly, there are the everyday, low-level offenders, like parents, who get caught telling their kids to do one thing and then go do the opposite themselves.
I’ll freely admit that I’ve dinged other people—especially my kids—for plenty of stuff that I’m guilty of doing myself. Case in point… I have a snack in bed just about every night but I slam my kids whenever I find food in their room. (Of course the only difference there is that no child of mine has ever found a crushed food product or wrapper in my bed. So suck it, girls.) Or, when I say something snarky to one of my girls about how much Netflix they’re binge-watching, as the Chopped Celebrity Marathon is paused on my TV screen. Or when I snap at one of them for whining about one of their friends and then I turn around and complain about one of mine but insist I was just “venting.” (As if there’s a difference.) And I know I let out my share of audible sighs when I’m behind someone driving at or below the speed limit, yet I call my kids out when they rag on the woman in front of us who’s driving slow because she’s lost.
And we all do stuff like that constantly—most often with our kids. We rip them a new one whenever they have the refrigerator door open for more than eight seconds, yet we keep it propped open for five minutes, deciding whether or not we’re going to eat the triple-layer fudge cake hidden behind the organic milk. We drive with our knee when we’re grabbing something out of our purse, yet we scream at our daughter if her hands shift the slightest bit from ten and two on the wheel. We harass them to put on sunscreen at the beach but say we don’t need it because our skimpy little rice paper cover-up is like armor against UV rays.
Look, all I’m saying is that hypocrisy happens. It’s when we start expecting special dispensation from other people but aren’t willing to give it back in return, that’s the problem. Because when we elevate ourselves to the point where we genuinely believe the rules don’t apply to us, then we’ve just landed squarely in the Bill Cosby category. And that’s a bad place to be.
When we become that mom who, every day, thinks it’s ok to stop in the middle of a busy intersection, in a school zone, when the light is green, and let our kid out of the car so we don’t have to deal with the drop-off line, we’re pushing it. Or when we’re the dad on the sidelines who thinks it’s ok to constantly coach the other kids on the field during a game but get annoyed when other parents shout out to our kid, that’s when we’ve crossed over to the dark side of hypocrisy.
See, there’s a difference between having a hypocritical moment and living a hypocritical life. A big difference. I mean, come on, we’re all guilty of random moments; the problem starts when those one-offs become an attitude that evolves into a lifestyle. That’s why I think we could all benefit from a little poke in the ribs to remind us to keep our double standards to a reasonable minimum.
So here’s a quick test. If you answer yes to even one of them, it’s time to regroup.
- Do you regularly prance around thinking that the rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to you?
- Do you constantly ignore speed limits and traffic rules and pretty much drive without any regard for the other people on the road?
- Do you repeatedly forbid your daughter from hanging out with kids who have piercings or tattoos even though you raised her to never judge a book by its cover?
- Do you consistently gossip about other people but then say you hate people who spread rumors?
- Do you always expect to be heard but never want to listen?
- Do you frequently criticize other people but can’t stand it when someone judges you?
- Do you habitually pass judgement without knowing all the facts?
Consider yourself poked.
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.