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Faking it till you make it

July 24, 2010

BCC is having a discussion about the case for hypocrisy. The idea is straightforward: Martin (and those in favor of hypocrisy) believes that hypocrisy is a claim levied against anyone who has and strives toward ideals. Because we are not perfect, we will not reach our ideals, but that doesn’t mean we cannot preach for those ideals.

This idea reminds me of the “hypocrisy upward” talked about by Wayne Booth. In his words:

…my hypocritical years taught me the inherent value of one kind of hypocrisy, what I have elsewhere called “hypocrisy upward.”9 The word hypocrisy originally meant “playing a role on the stage,” and it is clear that all of us at least some of the time are playing out roles we think appear superior to what we “really” are. Every parent tries to play a role that he or she knows is to some degree doctored, purified for the child’s consumption. Every teacher knows that the “self” who stands before the class is an utterly different and (usually) superior person as compared with the one who the night before swore over her income tax returns or slapped his five-year-old daughter. If we did not rise above our “everyday selves” in that way, hypocritically enacting superior selves, our culture would collapse much faster than even the most cynical see it as collapsing today.

I thought this was a novel idea at the time, and so when reading about it again from Martin, I was mostly on board. But I could see (anticipate?) the two other general reactions to this idea.

First, there were those who insisted that what is being described above is not hypocrisy, and that hypocrisy still is heinous. For example, these people said that a hypocrite condemns but holds himself above condemnation, whereas someone who simply has ideals might not condemn (or might not hold himself above condemnation) so is not a hypocrite. Others raised the point that if everyone is a hypocrite, then no one is (if everyone is special, then no one is.)

But then the second kind of response was that hypocrisy is simply bad, and not an ideal that is taught (or should be taught). This was, in other words, a complete disagreement with Martin’s point. The idea here is that no one need specifically fake it to make it…they can honestly strive for an ideal without pretense.

There were those who agreed with the virtue of hypocrisy, the virtue of “faking it till you make it.” Even though I was in general agreement with the idea of “hypocrisy upward,” as these certain commenters relayed their stories, I felt an uneasiness. For example, from this account, I was worried with the probing questions that could suggest that “faking it till you make it” could be conflated with “doing the right things for the wrong reasons” (and that such could be desirable), and in the end that these two could be conflated with faith itself.

I was disturbed by the frequent imagery of a person being disgruntled or begrudged with the commands or actions required of them in church, but of their doing it anyway. I have heard people talk about things that are supposed to be joyous with this imagery; people saying things like, “Well, of course if I were just doing the things I wanted to do, I wouldn’t be married, wouldn’t be faithful, wouldn’t have a family. These things are a burden, but I need to do them because that’s what the Lord has asked.”

I can’t help but feel for a spouse and family in that situation.

But what one commenter said later really hit close to home:

I’ve also seen lots of people crash hard on the rocks of NOT serving and NOT acting as if they believed, because they were waiting until it seems authentic and feels right to them. And it never just comes, which leaves them feeling inadequate and unloved by their father in heaven, or just leading them off in other unsavory directions in the meantime.

I guess I can see Naismith’s point though. If someone is waiting for something to seem authentic or to feel right, then they will perhaps be waiting a long time. I could see the argument for striving for authenticity. But I feel that there is something to be said for someone who strives to act a certain way, and *never* feels right at it for an entire lifetime.

What do we have then? I guess we have Pascal’s Wager

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  1. Interesting. What bothers me is not hypocrisy per se, but when people teach one principle and then live another in their life.

    For example, teaching that drinking alcohol is always wrong, but drinking alcohol themselves outside of church. What is distasteful (to me) is when one person would be punished (in LDS church terms) for being honest about drinking alcohol (for example) and the other person who is not honest is not punished. They might decline a calling because they would be teaching a lesson that they themselves don’t agree with.

    That’s what bothers me.

    For the record, the ym in my ward had a teacher who was rumored to drink alcohol. Did he? I don’t know. It was a rumor. Does it matter in the end?

    Yet, everyone is human, and figures out their own way. I guess it just bothers me that some people claim they are better than other people, or more likely to get into heaven than other people….when really, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. No one has a corner on truth. Which leads me to – who am I to judge if one person is being hypocritical or not? Ideally, I believe people should be honest about themselves and their actions and admit to not being perfect themselves….

  2. Someone could easily profess the wrongness of something but then just admit that they still have issues with doing “wrong” things.

    I thin the issue is, as you say later, when people claim they are better than other people, even though we’re all human and we all make mistakes.

  3. I don’t think that having an ideal for behavior and trying and failing to achieve it is hypocritical.

    I think it’s hypocritical when your public statements about behaviours or beliefs are at odds with how you actually conduct yourself in private.

    like the folks how are rabidly anti-gay in public and then get caught in a same gender sex scandal.

    or anti-adultery/vice people getting caught doing what they say they are against.

  4. but NK, couldn’t one make public statements about behaviors or beliefs that are at odds with how one conducts him/herself in private WHILE having an ideal (that they are not achieving).

    For example, various pastors/religious speakers/Congressment speak out against homosexuality…(that is their ideal for behavior). On the other hand, they do not achieve that ideal because they get caught in gay sex scandals.

    Do you think that someone who has an ideal, but doesn’t reach it must be silent in *public*?

    • Andrew

      I think that there’s a difference between saying (the dubious calim) “being heterosexual, married and raising children is optimal for society”

      and speaking out against gay people, supporting or voting for anti-gay legislation and secretly being gay

      I think that if there’s a huge difference between the public statements and the private behaviours, that there’s some serious psychological issues going on

      Plus, politicians are elected to represent everyone, not just people who voted for them and not just for the group of people that they’d like to belong to.

      In many ways, a politician who builds their career on anti-gay platforms while being secretly gay, are not at all different from the Jews who were the capos in the concentration camps – saving themselves at the expense of the other Jews.

    • as for “Do you think that someone who has an ideal, but doesn’t reach it must be silent in *public*?”

      I am going to say yes and that it comes from my Viking heritage which says that it’s okay to make bold claims, as long as you can back them up.

      part of why the closet cases do make anti-gay pronouncements is the way our brains work.

  5. NK,

    I think that if there’s a huge difference between the public statements and the private behaviours, that there’s some serious psychological issues going on

    The problem is that some people believe that homosexuality *is* a serious psychological issue. So, the difference between public statements and private behaviors isn’t nonsensical in that light.

    I agree that there is a difference between saying, “heterosexual nuclear families are optimal” and supporting anti-gay legislature. But these people aren’t simply saying the former. They believe that they must do the latter.

    • “The problem is that some people believe that homosexuality *is* a serious psychological issue.”

      Yes, and it’s people who aren’t trained in mental health

      I find this current trend of anti-experts/hail the loud amateur increasingly disturbing

      There used to be an expression in the gay community in the 90’s that if all the gay people turned purple, that homophobia would end overnight.

      I pointed out that being a different colour didn’t result in an end to discrimination.

      Same for the folks who insist that proving there’s a gay gene will end the discrimination.

      Again, skin tone is genetic, and it didn’t end racism.

      • All one of these people has to do is drum up a conspiracy theory about how the “experts” used to agree that homosexuality was a disorder until they were “cowed” by the “gay agenda”.

        Of course, such conspiracy theories *are* drummed up whenever possible.

        I agree with you that the anti-expert trend is disturbing, but when the experts market themselves so poorly and do little to defend themselves from claims of scientific abuse, it’s not hard to understand why. People can lose faith with the scientific establishment just as quickly as they can lose faith with any “authority” or “expert”

  6. What’s funny to me is that if the “gay agenda” is that powerful, then, shouldn’t they be afraid to oppose us?

    I also find it funny that no one can actually say what the gay agenda is.

    • just because an enemy is powerful doesn’t mean you fear them. you could have disgust, seething anger, etc.,

      which, surprise, the anti-gay groups have in spades.

      The gay agenda can be anything that goes against their “traditional” ideas of family life.

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