The topic of hypocrisy has been coming up in conversations again and again lately. In particular I spoke to an old college roommate about four months ago. She is a single mom and not all that interested in taking her two kids to church; too many hypocrites, she says. Oh, how we all hate hypocrites: those terrible people who preach one thing and do another!
My old roommate’s testimony is in a fragile state right now so I didn’t tell her the truth: she is a hypocrite. I am a hypocrite. We are all hypocrites. No, wait, that’s not quite true. The definition of hypocrisy is to pretend to believe something that we don’t actually believe. But it commonly means saying one thing, doing another. Of which we are all guilty.
I tell my children they must eat five fruits and veg every day. I have not eaten fruits and veg today. Or yesterday. I am a hypocrite.
I stood up in church last month and told everyone how Visiting Teaching is the most important calling and needs to be our #1 priority. I didn’t do my visiting teaching that month. I am a hypocrite.
I get mad if my husband throws his cans and bottles in the trash instead of the recycling bin. Yesterday at the gas station I threw three empty water bottles in the garbage can. I am a hypocrite.
There are a lot of parents who feel it’s wrong to tell their kids not to do something they themselves have done; taking drugs, for example. It’s so hypocritical, right? If I only taught my children things that I’d never done; my kids would all be lying, swearing, test-cheating thieves. I did every single one of those bad things as a kid. Sometimes I still do bad things. But I try to teach my children what is right. That’s what parents do. And that’s the idea behind church too.
If you are having trouble with people and their “do as I say, not as I do” approach, here’s a newsflash: nobody who teaches you at church—not the speakers, not the Bishop, not the Relief Society teacher—is perfect. Not only that, but they could have a big problem with the very thing they are teaching you about. If you’re assigned to give a talk or lesson, you can be sure it’s not going to be about the few things you do pretty well; it’s going to be about one of the things you struggle with. I’ve had that happen too many times to count.
You want a church full of perfect people? Somebody tell me which one it is because I’d like to go there too!
None of us is perfect. Yes, we all know that on an intellectual level. But do we really know that? I’m sorry that the person who gave a talk about loving one another is an introvert who was feeling shy and walked right past you in the hall without saying hello. I’m sorry that the Relief Society president gossiped about you. I’m sorry that nobody from the Elders Quorum helped you move out of your house.
I wish there were never any unkind words spoken at church. I wish we automatically knew how to lift one another’s burdens. We’re all muddling and struggling along (I’ll admit that some people are making more of an effort than others.) But to me showing up at church means, “I’m trying.”
Let’s not point fingers at people, condemning them as hypocrites. Unless, of course, you’re pointing your finger at the mirror.
We could all be better. We could all do more.