“He is a hypocrite who professes what he does not believe; not he who does not practice all he wishes or approves.”
– William Hazlitt
My recent post Twelve by Twelve got me thinking about hypocrisy and how we can better live our beliefs. Because I’m
a nerd naturally curious, I looked up “hypocrisy” in several dictionaries.
Some define hypocrisy as behavior that doesn’t agree with what you claim to believe, that is, not practicing what you preach. Others define it as pretending to be something you’re not, adding an element of deceit.
Apparently this confusion or disagreement over the meaning of the word has gone on for a long time. Nearly 300 years ago, English author Samuel Johnson wrote:
Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that expresses zeal for those virtues which he neglects to practice; since he may be sincerely convinced of the advantages of conquering his passions, without having yet obtained the victory. . . .
And that’s where many of us are, believing – but not victorious at living – our values.
“One is often so busy doing life that it is easy to avoid evaluating whether you are putting your energy in the direction you value most.”
– Deborah Day
Most (if not all) of us find it difficult to live in accordance with all of our beliefs. In part, this is because no one is perfect, no matter how hard we try.
But for most of us, it’s a lot more complicated than that. We might feel we don’t have enough time or money. Maybe we’re afraid of change.
Perhaps we feel we have too many responsibilities. Maybe we don’t how to balance apparently contradictory beliefs, like wanting to live frugally but also to get our children the best education we can.
The biggest problem, though, is most of us have never sat down and actually thought about what we value and what our priorities are. Until we’ve done this, living what we believe is impossible.
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”
― Roy Disney
Maybe you’re the kind of person who can just sit down one evening, list your values and prioritize them. If so, make some time in the next week and do it.
If you’re like me and need some help with this project, check out one or more of these resources.
This last one, Life Values Inventory, is especially interesting. It contrasts what you think you value with where you actually put your time and energy.
Living what we believe
I’m no good at abrupt changes, and, even if I were, some of the changes I’d like to make aren’t realistic to make suddenly. After all, I, like most of us, have obligations such as bills to pay and children to care for.
To avoid wreaking havoc and completely stressing out the whole family, some changes must be made slowly.
But I can – and I am – working toward a life more in line with my values. I’m slowly becoming more grateful, generous and patient. I’m volunteering more, deepening my spirituality, focusing less on material things and continuing to simplify my life.
What about you? Have you taken the time to think about what your values are and how you prioritize them? Do you find it difficult to balance competing values? What changes have you made recently to help live your beliefs?