No matter how much you want to, you can’t always “practice what you preach.” It’s a common saying that speaks to avoiding hypocrisy.
Nobody wants to be seen as a hypocrite, even though it is a perfectly human thing to do at times.
Sometimes we just don’t know what the right thing is. Other times, we give in to peer pressure and follow the crowd instead of doing what we know to be right. Not only that, but sometimes we just choose to do the wrong thing for whatever reasons we have.
To not be a hypocrite is a worthy goal in itself. Living in tune with what we believe to be right is a good way to maintain peace and foster happiness. It’s less likely that you will be viewed as dishonest by other people because how can you trust someone who doesn’t practice what they preach?
And you have the added benefit of not trying to deal with the tangled web that comes from trying to keep track of why and what you had to say about a situation.
How do you stop being a hypocrite?
1. Examine your own moral compass.
Most religions and philosophies lay out various rules to live your life by. They have those lists of rules to live a “good life” and be a “good person” because humans are self-interested animals playing at being civilized. You simply can’t have a good or peaceful life by giving into the darkest impulses of yourself.
The fact that your moral compass may not point true north is an important reason to understand it. And if it doesn’t point north, you may need to create or find some rules to live by so you don’t find yourself walking in circles.
A good way to examine it is to look at your actions that have caused many problems or grief in your life. Consider why you made the decisions that you made and what you could have done differently.
What are the qualities you want to embrace? What is your natural inclination of those qualities? Is it healthy? If it’s not, then you now know what you need to work on.
2. Avoid criticizing other people.
The thing about criticism is that it is an open invitation for conflict. Granted, criticism can be a healthy tool for improvement if a person actually wants criticism, but if they don’t, you may start a fight with them.
There’s a pretty good chance that the person you criticize is going to look for discrepancies in your words and actions as a means of fighting back. That may not be something you want to deal with.
However, the main issue with criticizing other people is that you are implicitly saying that you know that person’s situation or life better than they do. And most of the time, you will not. You can say that you would have done this or that action if you were in the situation they were in, but would you have? You may have no idea how you actually would have responded.
Let me give you a common example.
“She was being abused by him? Why didn’t she just leave? I would never have tolerated that!”
Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? It’s not.
It doesn’t account for any mind games the abuser might have been playing to convince the person that no one would believe them or help them. It doesn’t account for fear of getting killed while trying to escape.
It doesn’t account for having a place to go or access to adequate resources. There are plenty of people who flee an abusive relationship and find themselves in some hard times or even homeless because they have nowhere else to go.
But it’s so easy to think that all they needed to do was pick up and leave. It’s so easy to think that you would have had the clarity and presence of mind to know exactly how to handle that situation, especially if you’ve never been in it before.
To pass judgment on other peoples’ lives is to declare, “I am right!” And you might not be.
3. Don’t make promises; just take action.
Hypocrisy exists in the space where words and actions do not match up. You can avoid being a hypocrite by making fewer verbal promises.
The problem with a promise is that life doesn’t always like to follow our plans. Sometimes, it seems like there is some cosmic force that takes those plans as a challenge to mess with us.
Actions speak louder than words.
Just do the things that you have determined to be right. Don’t make promises when you have no idea whether or not you can keep them. Your actions will build trustworthiness and camaraderie with the people around you. You won’t have to make promises because those people will already know who you are and what you care about.
This also gives you some valuable wiggle room. Most reasonable people are usually willing to forgive your shortcomings if you are actually trying. But to make a promise to someone and see it fall completely flat? That allows them to think that you didn’t even try.
You can avoid that completely by just not making promises, which is not something you need to do if you’re just taking action.
4. Embrace humility.
Humility is a powerful tool for peace of mind and life. It’s also a powerful tool for combating hypocrisy.
You’re not going to have all of the answers or know everything. There will always be massive gaps in different areas of your knowledge that you just can’t fill.
To be humble is to acknowledge the scope of the universe and the gifts and talents of other people. It’s also a strong reason to not be judgmental or impose that kind of thinking on others.
A healthy dose of humility keeps the door of being wrong open. You can avoid being a hypocrite by embracing the uncertainty of it all. It’s much harder to avoid hypocrisy if you can’t accept being wrong or that other people might know better than you do.
5. Regularly practice integrity.
Do you think integrity is natural or something learned? For some people, integrity and doing the right thing do come naturally. For other people, it’s something they need to learn and grow into.
Integrity can be learned and practiced like any other habit. If it couldn’t, then no one would ever change their ways or decide to be better. There would be no stories of redemption or forgiveness.
The more you practice integrity, the easier it becomes to make those better choices, eliminating more of the hypocritical nature of our basic impulses.
Consider a manager at work. They may preach hard work and tell you how it’s so important that everyone pulls together to help out. Still, you know they hide away in their office for a two-hour lunch break and regularly disappear. You know that they aren’t really working hard because you caught them watching a video on their phone while supposedly doing paperwork.
They’re a hypocrite. They’re not doing the right thing and practicing integrity when no one is looking. Why would anyone listen to that person? Other than, hey, they’re the manager, and their title means you have to listen to them. Not that you’re going to do much more than the bare minimum for them.
Integrity can be built through habit and practice. It becomes easier and more natural the more you do it, which will put your actions more in line with your words.
6. Forgive your shortcomings.
The best thing you can do to combat your hypocrisy is to continue trying. You’re not going to get it right all of the time. And sometimes, when you do get it right, you’re still going to end up being a hypocrite. It’s not something that you can ever completely avoid, though you can make it a much smaller part of your life by focusing on the five tips above.
When you don’t feel that you live up to the standard you want, it’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Forgive yourself and try again. The more you work at and practice it, the easier it’s going to get. It will take some time, though, so be patient with yourself and forgive your shortcomings.
You may also like:
- How To Deal With Hypocrites: A 5-Step Approach
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- 6 Highly Effective Ways To Stop Being Critical Of Others
- 8 Ways To Stop Being Condescending Toward Others