By Aaron Brown, Crosswalk.com
“Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? Hypocrite!” (Matthew 7:3-5). Hypocrite. Not a name anyone wants to be called, but how many of us does the word accurately describe? When I hear that term, I hear more than its definition. To be a hypocrite is to be morally corrupt, a pretender who feigns values. A hypocrite can’t be a Christian, at least that’s how I feel when realizing just how much the word describes me. Too often have I tried to free my brother of something in his eye, fully knowing what was in my own. Too often have I penned articles like this, encouraging faceless readers in ways where I struggle all too well. Hypocrite. No one wants to be called that, but I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a Christian and a hypocrite.
I can only wonder how the disciples felt listening to Jesus. Did they think to themselves, Am I a hypocrite? or did they quickly brush off the idea entirely?
Judgment was one of several ideas discussed during the Sermon on the Mount. While on this topic Jesus made it clear that the standards we use to judge others are the same standards by which we will be judged (Matthew 7:2). If you don’t like people yelling, don’t yell. If you don’t like people cutting in line, don’t cut. Otherwise, to call someone wrong for something we do is to be wrong ourselves.
I’ve called out people for their anger, deceit, jealousy, lust, gluttony, and slothful behavior. I should mention, I’ve displayed each of those traits at one time or another. Thankfully, most people don’t call me out for being a hypocrite. If only they knew a bit more (or I showed a bit more), they would know just how hypocritical I am.
Why Am I a Hypocrite?
Back in my college days, a friend told me something profound. She said that what we hate most in people, we ourselves do. At that moment I considered the things I hated most: lying, lust, people not listening to me. Each of those was something that I did.
I was left to wonder if the reason we hate certain behaviors in others is because we want to stop doing them ourselves. We want to rid others of the same sins we see in ourselves. If we don’t, then we’re faced with constant reminders of what we dislike. Imagine gazing into a mirror and being reminded of a certain imperfection, over and over again. If only we could make the imperfection go away.
That would explain why I was so disappointed in the men who fell into the scantily-dressed women online, or was so deeply bothered by people who spent entire conversations talking about themselves. I was lustful and self-indulgent but didn’t want to be.
And that definitely made me a hypocrite – criticizing people based on standards I did not consistently meet, and not giving them the same grace that I so easily gave myself. The hypocrisy I exhibited didn’t begin there, nor did it end.
Years following college, my writing career took off, and I found myself with many opportunities to write for others. I used the occasions to write uplifting, motivational, and informative material. Of the many articles, I’ve covered a wide range of topics. While to some, I may seem to have a lot to say about many things (and I do), how often am I following my own guidance?
I can remember a guy reaching out to me via LinkedIn. He thanked me for an article I wrote on fear, which left me with a tough question. How often have I been anxious since writing that article? Too often.
If I can so casually give someone tips on handling anxiety, why do I still find myself making bad decisions, struggling, or forgetting God?
Interestingly, with time I came to realize that being a hypocrite was not as bad as I thought. Hypocrisy is wrong and sinful, but there was a good trait embedded in that bad quality. The reason I was a hypocrite was because I expected people to act by a certain standard – a righteous standard, though I myself often failed. However, this meant that I wanted to do what was right, and even help others do right. That was good news!
The reason I am a hypocrite is because I am human, and flawed, much like everyone else walking the Earth (Romans 8:28). Though I’d like to exalt myself above others, being aware of my hypocrisy keeps me humble. Jesus’s reminder about the wood in my eye reminds me there is always room to grow.
If I can overcome my hypocrisy, I can better serve and love others. For example, if I know the dangers of addiction, I can encourage other people. I’ll be able to explain to them how I was affected, and what they can do to overcome it. The more I can do for others, the more I can fulfill the second greatest commandment (Matthew 22:39).
The End of Hypocrisy?
Right now, I have a question with no definite answer. Does hypocrisy ever end? I don’t think there will ever be a day when I am not criticizing someone for something (even myself). After all, according to Scripture, there is right and there is wrong. If I remain a sinner all my life (which I will), then surely at some point I will be guilty of the thing someone else did, which I disliked. That would mean hypocrisy doesn’t end. Or does hypocrisy find its natural conclusion when we can turn the mirror, see ourselves, and think, Something needs to change?
I’m not certain. What I can say with much more clarity is that though I am a sinner, flawed, often fearful, and yes, a hypocrite, I’m also a man after God’s heart. Being a Christian means keeping God’s commandments embedded in my heart (John 14:15). Being a Christian does not mean I’ll be perfect. Thus, I’ll do what I can for others right now and grow. With time, hopefully, the log in my eye will continue to disappear as I become more like Jesus. Then all the love and service I want to give to others, well, I’ll see much more clearly how I can do so.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/AndreyPopov
Aaron Brown is a freelance writer, dance teacher, and visual artist. He currently contributes articles to GodUpdates, GodTube, iBelieve, and Crosswalk. Aaron also supports clients through the freelance platform Upwork.