The place where I occassionally "work" often has a local radio station playing. Much of it is just varied genre songs which, save for the token 2009 releases, are usually pretty good. But, recently, I have been hearing more advertisements on the station. As in, they are drawing my attention more. And one recurring ad in particular caught my ear.
The advertisement was for a church (or something like that, I don't really pay that much attention). It began by expressing the idea that the people do not like to go to church because they do not like to be around "hypocrites". Frankly, I do think that this is a factor for people deciding that they do not want to delve too deep into organized religion, despite potentially still believing in (most of) the doctrines relevant to it. Not necessarily the only factor, of course, but one that can't be shrugged off as insignificant. The idea of "hypocrites" existing within the confines of strict religious institutions is a potent and widespread one, to the point where "hypocritical devout church-goer" has become a modern archetype that seems pervasive in both fictional and news media, appearing frequently perhaps due to the inherit intrigue and outrage caused by such a figure. How big of a problem they actually are, in terms of actual negative influence on communities or in terms of sheer numbers, is hard to say, but probably less than we would be led to believe, and not more.
But, regardless, this particular advertisement proceeded to then say that if the speaker himself did not want to associate with hypocrites, then he could not associate with himself due to the difficulty he has in living up to his own moral standards. The implication being that, just like everyone is a sinner, everyone is a "hypocrite" in some way. But, this conveniently ducks under the very problems that people have with folks who are labelled as "hypocritical".
Hypocrite, in the case of this advertisement as well as the standard complaints against "hypocritical behavior" is best described here as "a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings". Obviously, a person could do such a thing innocuously and in fact it may be very hard not to do so. But, you see, the problem is that the typical hypocrite who actually earns the ire of other people is somewhat more than this definition suggests. Not due to an omission in the description it gives, but due to the nature of the "stated beliefs" involved.
You see, your standard hypocrite, the kind expressed most clearly by that definition and that the person speaking in the ad refers to himself as, has stated beliefs in the forms of ideals. These stated beliefs are things that a person should do, because they are the things that result in the best outcomes, and are even often applied to person holding those beliefs alone. These are the beliefs about manners, achievement, and other such areas that naturally allow for a little bit of laxity. If these kind of hypocrites have beliefs that are more strict and absolute, they either do not express them (thus failing to count as hypocrites because no-one will know if they have contradicted what they believe if those beliefs are unstated) or they are beliefs that they actually can actually live up to.
But, there are some hypocrites who are just a cut above the one described above. They warrant more scorn because their stated beliefs are not merely beliefs about ideal practices, or how they themselves can best behave. The stated beliefs about the kinds of hypocrites that people actually give a damn about are those that are spoken vocally, applied to everyone, and are about things that those people must do. That is to say, where the other beliefs were wishy-washy and just focused on best possible outcomes, these kind of beliefs are strict, set-in-stone, and, in order for anyone to even notice them, brought up in order to scold others and restrict behavior. And, as a result, the people who present such opinions about how people need to behave, do so allowing no room for exceptions, and then violate their own rules, it is a matter that brings into question both the character of the person who loudly offered up the rules and the tenability of the rules if their loudest proponents cannot even manage to adhere to them.
Oh, but there is of course a step up from that as well: actual activists who are hypocritical about the behavior they were advocating against. That is to say, a hypocrite who disobeys their own rules about what people must do and wants/wanted to turn their own personal rules into actual laws. You know them well: anti-prostitution johns, anti-gay glory hole strollers, anti-adultery adulterers, pro-life women getting abortions, pretty much any politician you can name on one subject or another. They are not just people who proved to have a touch of human frailty, but people who adamantly insisted that others acknowledge as a law a set of beliefs about behavior that they could not live up to, restricting others through the legal system due to moral standards that their own behavior suggest may in fact be too strict for even its greatest devotees to hold themselves to.
Obviously, when the man on the radio admits to being a hypocrite, he doesn't mean that he is actively saying that all people have to act in a way that he himself does not. Nor would he wish (I hope) to frivolously brush aside the concerns about cases of people who do just that, and how it reflects upon the standards being put forward as much as the "hypocrite" themselves. Yet, this is exactly what the popular conception of hypocrite is when it is brought up as something that is actually problematic. Whether it was intentional or not, attempting to push such concerns under the rug by suggesting that the hypocrite who can't live up to personal standards is equivalent to the hypocrite who can't live up to standards he expects others to live up to is either completely underhanded, incredibly self-effacing, or just unknowingly dishonest. Anyway you slice it...boy have I been there!
[Please forgive me for overusing the word "hypocrite" in this post. I know that it is already overused enough by teenagers across the country. Ba-zing!]