I was reading a book around mid-afternoon, a daily ritual I perform before my afternoon siesta, when my seven-year-old grandson came and announced, “Nafisa Auntie’s call for you Amma”. Oh no, I groaned inwardly! Always at draggers drawn with her daughter-in-law, my friend often calls with her (new) list of complaints. And I am forced to listen to her rants, although I am least interested, plus I do not have such a bad opinion of the poor girl! But I do not have the courage to give my views to my old friend, as I do not want to annoy her.
The book was getting interesting and I was in no mood to be disturbed, so I told the little one to tell Nafisa that Dadi is sleeping. “But you are not sleeping Amma!” Looking a bit confused, he reminded me innocently, “You always tell me that I should never tell a lie”. “Run away and do as you are told. I don’t need your sermon,” I scolded him. He left the room, but not before giving me a reproachful look. I returned to my book without having the slightest idea that I had given my little grandson his first lesson in hypocrisy.
How many of us go through similar experiences in our day-to-day life? Majority of us are hypocrites as we love to preach what we ourselves seldom practice, conveniently molding our rules and principles to suit our moods and whims (and sometimes convenience).
A hypocrite can be defined as a person who pretends to have virtues, principles or moral believes which he does not actually possess. He is also a person who feigns desirable attitude when in company, although this behaviour does not conform with his true personality. According to Bertrand Russell, “We have two kinds of morality side by side; one which we preach but do not practice and another which we practice but seldom preach.”
So, what is the real cause of hypocrisy? For me, the most important reason is the fear of disapproval of the people with whom I interact in my day-to-day life. I am scared that my true feelings may annoy or hurt them, or have a lower opinion of me than what I would like them to have! So, I take refuge under the cloak of hypocrisy. Also, as I am so obsessed with myself, I usually do not think that something is wrong if a nice person like me is doing it. At times, I lie so sincerely, I cease to perceive my deception, forgetting that I am not deceiving people but only myself. Although, according to Socrates, “The greatest way to live with honour in this world is to be what we pretend to be”.
Let me explain. I go to the wedding of an acquaintance’s daughter and after greeting and congratulating my hostess I exclaim, “Wow! Salma, you look so beautiful in this maroon dress. One would never guess you are the bride’s mother”. Salma blushes as she guides me to a seat and moves away. “What a terrible colour to wear, looks so loud for her age!” I whisper to a common friend sitting next to me. “But you were complimenting her for her dress just a moment ago.” She looks surprised. “Do you know she is the principal of my grand- daughter’s school? I can’t take the risk of annoying her,” I reply with a smug smile.
Umar Adil, a young businessman, believes, “Hypocrisy has become a second nature to most of us. In today’s world what matters to us the most is what other people think of us. Even our opinion about ourselves is based on those views. I am a real man living in a real world and trying to prove myself. Yes, naturally I am a hypocrite. What I say and preach is rarely based on what I practice and most of the time I do this to create a cool impression. The remedy to this issue is accomplishment. Once you prove yourself a successful person, you find your actions speak better than the hollow sermons you never tire of giving. I know I can get over my hypocrisy (i.e. if I want to do so), but the time is not ripe for it yet!”
Freelance writer and journalist Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam gives her views, “Hypocrisy, to me, is a form of lying. Unfortunately, we all end up indulging in it as there are contradictions in our personalities, our lifestyles and our beliefs. We often portray ourselves to be something that we are not. I think true liberation comes with being one’s true self under all circumstances. People who don’t accept us the way we are don’t deserve to be in our life.” When asked if she is a hypocrite, she replies with a smile, “This question actually teaches me to be less judgmental. Commenting on others’ actions should be avoided, as at times we may end up doing the same thing in similar circumstances”.
I know many people who can be called hypocrites, but I have never been able to muster enough courage to tell them so, as I myself am a hypocrite. There are times when I really feel ashamed of my hypocrisy and wonder what measures I can take to minimize it. Maybe this can be achieved by trying my best to always do and say what I believe to be right and not changing my values to justify my actions. On other self-righteous moments, I overcome my guilt by reminding myself that I am an honest hypocrite and unlike most people, have the courage to admit my weaknesses.