I hate hypocrisy. Whether it’s Al Gore driving a gas-guzzling motorcade everywhere, or President Obama extending Bush’s policies, I just can’t stand it when people – especially national leaders – openly refuse to practice what they preach. Sure, we’ve come to expect this from politicians. But that doesn’t make it right.
As I sat fuming about this today, my Higher Self tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me of a spiritual truth: Us humans tend to preach most passionately against what we ourselves suffer from. It’s called the Law of Mirrors: When I cannot see a character flaw in myself (and denial is far more common than we’re willing to admit!), then I am presented with “mirrors” in my life who display that very same character flaw.
When something is too close to me, I can’t see it – like holding up a newspaper to my nose. But when it’s outside myself, in another person, I can see it more clearly. That makes them a mirror for me, to see the behavior more objectively and decide how I feel about it.
If I don’t like what I see, then I’m probably going to judge it harshly. And that opens the door for hypocrisy.
Let’s take a case study from a popular movie, so as not to single out any real people. AMERICAN BEAUTY came out 10 years ago, so forgive the spoiler.
Col. Frank Fitts, USMC (Chris Cooper), absolutely hates homosexuals. He suspects his son of having a gay affair with the neighbor, Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), and expresses his rage accordingly. Only minutes after nearly killing his son, he goes over to the Burnhams’ and tries to kiss (not kill) Lester. The truth comes out: He hates gays because he hates himself. He hates his own nature, and when he sees it in other people, he wants to punish them for it, just as he wants to punish himself.
Now, comparing this hypocrisy to the hypocrisy shown by public leaders is a stretch, granted. They are different varieties of hypocrisy. But it does explain why hypocrisy is so darned popular – because we all judge in others what we ourselves suffer from. We are hypocrites because we are not yet enlightened enough (or objective enough) to see ourselves clearly.
We’re too close.
My own habits are like that newspaper held up to my nose. I can’t even read the headlines – even if they are obvious to everyone around me.
Ultimately, the goal of seeing ourselves (and others) more clearly is not to provide ammunition for judgement, but rather to help us practice humility and forgiveness. It is to see people from the eyes of the heart, understanding with compassion, soulfully.
So, next time you see hypocrisy in someone else, you can be grateful for their role in helping you see truth. It is one more step on the road to accountability, enlightenment, and the end of judgement.