Dang, it feels so good to be righteous about literally everything. So sure of your moral compass and belief system. No wonder people refuse to see their own hypocrisy. It ruins the high.
There is a lot of hypocrisy out in the world right now. That isn’t too surprising. People can change, of course, but as Daniel R. Stadler writes for Psychology Today, hypocrisy happens frequently because we have a tendency to justify our own actions in a way that we won’t for other people. Those people are doing something wrong; we’re doing something necessary and important — it’s just coincidence those behaviours just happen to look exactly the same.
Justifications are our biases, according to Stadler. Confirmation bias is when what we believe is influenced by our desires; we want something to be real, so we find evidence that it is. The “bias blind spot” is seeing bias in others, but believing ourselves to be free of it. And then there’s the actor-observer bias, where you believe all your own actions are related to external factors, but everyone else is doing things because of emotions.
This shows that not all hypocrisy is malicious, and with some self-reflection, you might be able to see and admit to it.
Here’s what to do if you realise you’re being a hypocrite:
Take It Back
Stadler recommends people backtrack when they realise they’re acting hypocritically — particularly if you have just accused someone of doing something you also do. He says some good openers for that are phrases such as “on second thought” or “upon further reflection”, and explain from there that you no longer think they’re in the wrong.
Resolve To Improve
If you’ve taken hypocritical actions, it might be more difficult to turn back the clock. The only thing left to do is promise to be better in future. Stadler gives a couple of innocuous examples, such as failing to recycle:
If the garbage has already been taken away, promise to find a recycle bin the next time. If you failed to follow your own New Year’s resolution within days of New Year’s, remind yourself there’s still several more months to go.
Recognising your own hypocrisy can be a moment of growth. It’s an opportunity to imagine who’d you’d like to be rather than just who you think you are.
None of the above can happen until you admit you were wrong. This is the hardest step, in my opinion. Few people like to take a step back and really look at themselves. They’re afraid of how they’ll be made to pay and face potential public embarrassment.
Stadler offers some ideas for how to start your apology tour:
This might be the toughest, but there are phrases that might help, like how you’re a “big enough person” to admit when you’re wrong, or how it’s time to “eat crow”.
“Eating crow” is not exactly a motivating concept, but it’s true that sometimes it’s better to suffer a little by making amends. It’s much worse to go to bed every night knowing you’re a big phoney.
Get Over It
As stated above, humans are often hypocritical without meaning to be. They aren’t sinister — they’re just people who justify their own actions. Sounds like being alive! It only gets bad when you recognise you’re being a hypocrite and then decide to double down.
Doing the right thing can be hard, but just think how fun it will be to be righteous again in the future, once your conscience is clean.