FIRESIDE CHAT – Saturday Afternoon, 24 Aug. 2013
The Man in the Mirror – Art Thou A Hypocrite?
Hello and welcome! Come join me by the fire for my weekly fireside chat. During the course of these brief fireside discussions, I will share some of my random thoughts about varied subjects of interest. Many of these chats will contain knowledge that I have obtained from the many lessons that I have learned on my journey in life. I invite you to share your comments, in a civil tone – both negative and positive. Please note that all derogatory comments will be deleted. Thanks for joining me. It is great to have you here!
When we look in the mirror, who is the person that we see? Is that person who we see in the mirror a reflection of the person that the world sees? Or, is the image that we portray to the world a total deception of who we really are? If the world is considered to be a stage and we are the actors that play the parts, which role do we play? Do we play the role of our self, or do we hide behind a proverbial mask pretending to be something or someone who we really are not? In other words, are we true to ourselves and the image that we portray to the world, or are we a “hypocrite”?
The word hypocrite is from the Greek word ὑποκρίτης (hupokrites). The word hypocrisy is derived from the Greek word υποκρισία(hupokrisis), which meant playing a part on the stage or putting on a mask to misrepresent reality. In the ancient Greek theater actors were known as hypocrites without any negative connotation.
A modern definition of a hypocrite is “a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.” And so, unlike the actors on a stage, in the real world, being a hypocrite or pretending to be something or someone while actually being something or someone else is definitely viewed as being wrong. When discussing matters of religion, such behavior is considered to be evil. There are some people, however, who may be accused of being hypocritical because their actions do not necessarily coincide with what they profess to be, but that may be an indication of a weakness, not hypocrisy per se.
Don Marquis, a humorist, journalist, and author who is remembered best for creating the characters “Archy” and “Mehitabel”, probably stated it best when he said, “A hypocrite is a person who – but who isn’t?” And it was Billy Sunday, an American Clergyman who said,
Hypocrites in the Church? Yes, and in the lodge and at the home. Don’t hunt through the Church for a hypocrite. Go home and look in the mirror. Hypocrites? Yes. See that you make the number one less.
We live in a society where status means everything to some people. In certain circles, if you are not a member of a particular social club or elite group, then you are considered to be “ordinary” or “common” and not one who is worthy of being in the presence of someone who apparently has more “class.” For that reason, some people will go to great lengths to ensure that they only associate with the right people, are members of the most elite groups and clubs, wear only the finest wardrobe adorned with the most exquisite jewelry, drive the fanciest of cars, live in luxurious homes, and always make sure that they are present at the most extravagant social functions. Never mind the fact that they may not be able to afford such a luxurious lifestyle, but to them it is worth it all just to keep from being numbered among the “ordinary” or “common” people. Some will even go so far as to claim that they are personal friends with celebrities or other well-known people just to maintain their social image. Sadly, these people have lost touch with reality. They claim to be something or someone who they are not. And in order to remain in good social graces, they have to keep up this false image no matter the costs. The term that best describes them is hypocrite.
Perhaps W. Somerset Maugham, a British novelist and playwright, was right when he said,
Hypocrisy is the most difficult and nerve-racking vice that any man can pursue; it needs an unceasing vigilance and a rare detachment of spirit. It cannot, like adultery or gluttony, be practiced at spare moments; it is a whole-time job.
There are some people who are sincere in what they believe and what they say, but they often find that the natural man takes control, and though their intentions of living up to what they say are good, they oftentimes find themselves weighing in the balances as their actions do not necessarily match up to what they profess to be. Without realizing that this is the case the world is quick to brand them as hypocrites when in reality they are not hypocrites, but weak. These are they who find themselves echoing in the words of the Apostle Paul when he said in Romans 7:15-24:
For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Then there are those who are known as religious hypocrites such as the Scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day. They were among the more religious conservatives at that time, yet Christ in His teachings did not mince words when it came to responding to them. In fact, some of the harshest words that He spoke were directed toward these two groups of people. In one of His discourses as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew He called them hypocrites seven times (See Matthew 23:13-15,23,25,27,29), fools twice and blind guides five times (See Matthew 23:16-17, 19, 24, 26), and serpents and brood of vipers once (See Matthew 23:33). Other examples of His teachings about hypocrisy include:
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5).
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:1-6).
Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, this people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:1-9).
I will end this treatise by asking the same questions that were asked at the beginning. When we look in the mirror, who is the person that we see? Is that person who we see in the mirror a reflection of the person that the world sees? Or, is the image that we portray to the world a total deception of who we really are?
In act 1, scene 3, of the Shakespearean play Hamlet, Polonius’ last counsel to his son Laertes, who is in a hurry to get on the next boat to Paris where he’ll be safe from his father’s long-winded speeches, was “to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” The counsel that Polonius gave to his son Laertes is some very wise counsel indeed. Are we true to ourselves? Do we know who we really are, and more importantly, do we know whose we are? If we really want to make a change and an impact on the world in which we live, that change needs to start with the person whom we see in the mirror. Είμαστε για την πραγματική,ή είμαστε υποκριτής (are we for real, meaning are we true to ourselves and to others, or are we a hypocrite?)