The word hypocrite is one of those words we Christians throw around without much thought. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it’s kind of hypocritical of us to point at others with this word. Well, it is… I mean really!!! I know the reason I have devoted my life to Christ and Christianity is because I myself am a grand sinner. Sometimes, my devotion to Christ and helping others makes me see myself as a hypocrite. What right do I have to talk about anything having to do with Jesus, God, righteous living, church, or redemption when I myself fail at my attempts to fight sin every day?
I admit it, I have called other people hypocrites too… which is really wrong! When I shout, “Hypocrite!” what I’m really shouting is, “I’m a judgmental piece of crap that thinks I’m better than you!!!!” Even my four year old can read between those lines, even if he doesn’t truly understand it right then. He knows. I realize the only person I have any right to accuse of hypocrisy is myself. But before I commit to calling myself names, I’m drawn to understand this concept a little bit better.
What does this overused word “hypocrite” actually mean? According to Webster’s Pocket Dictionary it means “one who pretends to have virtue, feeling, etc, that he or she does not have.”
Hmmm… the word “pretend” strikes me. When it comes to the things I feel hypocritical about, I don’t think it is a matter of “pretending”, I think it is a matter of self control. I openly admit I have zero self control, so I must rely on God to give me God-guided-self-control. I want to set a good example in my words and deeds, be more like Jesus than the day before but it is hard. I know I’ll never fully succeed… but it’s the attempt that matters, right? Sure, I fail at this walking like Jesus thing every day. But I don’t feel as though my failure means I am pretending, for it truly is my heart's desire to make God happy. No part of it is an act.
I’ve been accused of being too transparent with my life. I’ve been asked, “Why do you tell people so much? Is it really necessary??” Some people think it’s egotistical or narcissistic of me, like I think others really care about what I’m doing. Some people think it’s because I want to brag about the stuff I think I do right… ha ha… that one is funny considering there isn’t much I think I do correctly (other than being transparent about my mistakes and failures, see the irony???). The truth is that I’m transparent with others about my failures because of this Bible verse: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” James 5:16
Right now I realize, transparency is what takes me out of hypocrisy. Transparency is what makes me real… and it shows the world I am not pretending to be something I’m not. I try, I fail, I tell the WHOLE story without pretending or leaving the part that makes me look like an idiot out. Every spiritual success I have had has been riddled with multiple spiritual failures. Ultimately, the glory for every one of my successes goes to God, because not one part of me is good without Him. Even my ability to be transparent is owed to Him, for without Him I’d be too full of controlling pride to be honest.
I’ve really been struggling with my control issues in the last months. When I first went through the 12 step program several years ago, I was in so much pain from the big, empty, God-shaped hole in my soul that I was willing to do whatever it took to feel better. My alcoholism gave me something very specific to work on. I had to stop drinking! It was a very defined task… a goal. I soon realized that the only way I could successfully stop drinking was to give control over to God. I couldn’t and didn't do it on my own.
I don’t drink anymore, and rarely have the inkling but recognize that it is a day to day thing that could be taken away in the snap of a finger if I decide to take control of that back from God. Even still, I have somehow found myself sort of back at square one… having to learn how to relinquish control of my life as a whole to God again. I’ve been frustrated and disconnected. I haven’t been able to focus or pause. In short, I guess I haven’t felt the serenity I once had and I know it’s because I’m trying to run my own universe again. Running the universe is an impossible task for me, so no wonder I’m frustrated! Turning control over to God is really hard this time because I don’t have a specific task to focus on… like quitting booze. The best way to define my task this time around is to say I need to stop trying to control my need for control... and how the heck do I even begin to do an oxy-moronic thing like that?
I think a part of what got me back here is a burden I put on myself when I decided to take God's lead and try to help others with my experiences. That burden is linked to my misguided interpretation of hypocrisy. I realized this morning that I felt like a total hypocrite. I talk to those around me about how important it is to let God have control of our lives but here I am not allowing Him control of my own. I was lead to my computer by the Spirit to write this so here I am making self discoveries through Him. I realize, I am not a hypocrite… I am just a human being who is struggling. Just because I make the choice to try and help others… doesn’t mean I have to be perfect. I think I’ve allowed my failures to cause shame… thus the feeling of hypocrisy. Yes, I believe and openly say to others, “The best way to live life is to let God be in control.” Yes, I admit I struggle at attaining it. I am not pretending… I openly admit I will always struggle at attaining it, I’m not Jesus. I am not God. Is it a coincidence that the “first step” is to admit that I am not God and I can not control my life or tendencies to do wrong???? I think not.
In this very moment, I have a great understanding of “Happy are those who are poor in spirit.”
I am certainly spiritually poor right now… but I am happy! I feel freedom from the constraints and shame that the feeling of hypocrisy has brought to me. I feel like I’m on the right track to giving up my need to control my need for control. Oh how complicated… yet the answer is simple, give it to God.
I am also struck with the idea that God is giving me a great opportunity in this struggle… He is giving me an opportunity to experience a different type of relinquishing of control… the really hard kind; the kind that those who are not alcoholics or addicts have to face. I am thankful for this opportunity, even though it’s really uncomfortable and difficult. I have faith that this struggle will open up a whole new set of experiences I can use to share with a whole new set of people in need. God never gives us more than we can handle, and God never wastes a hurt or struggle.
I vow to never call anyone a hypocrite ever again, and that includes me.