Everyone makes mistakes, fails, and has lapses in their integrity. No one has ever been an exception to this, and no one ever will be – it’s an intrinsic part of being human. Yet when we catch the errors and wrongdoings of others, we judge, ostracize, or even spite them. When it comes our turn to be called out on it, we try – like everyone – to rationalize, justify, or simply dismiss.
“No, no, that’s different” or “We all make mistakes, who are you to talk?” We all use the same defenses, make the same demand for respect and understanding, or simply deny the accusations to begin with. Just as we jump on others for their errors and moral failings, so we jump on them for casting the spotlight on our own transgressions and flaws. Sure, some may be worse than others in this regard. But no one can claim an absolute moral high ground.
So arguably, albeit to varying degrees, we’re all hypocrites. This may be a cause for cynicism, especially as far as having heroes is concerned (as every virtuous person who inspires us is equally guilty of having lesser qualities). Indeed, lot of leaders and other “exceptional” types – think of politicians, business executives, people in any position of authority – invariably develop a sense of self-entitlement. They rationalize their wrong-doing by saying – “I’m different, I earn or deserve this.” In fact, some studies have found people of privilege judging other’s more harshly than themselves even for the same faults.
Despite popular belief, this has always been the case. I’ve made this point numerous times before: when people talk about how much more “virtuous” politicians once were, or how we used to be more moral and familial as a society, they’re neglecting the fact that it only seems that way due to the obvious lack of scrutiny we had of society back then. If we look deeper in our history, we find the difference is really a result of confirmation bias. Being alive now, and with all this ubiquitous media to boot, means we’re far more likely to see the hypocrisy of our times, and see it as unique in its severity or prevalence in the modern world.
Some may see this as a cause for cynicism, and that’s understandable. But I think that’s what makes heroes more heroic, and what makes are good deeds more valuable. Good people, extraordinary or otherwise, to transcend the inherent weakness in their nature, or at least compensate it through greater acts of good. Ultimately, more moral and ethical people are trying to fight harder against the universal tendency to be blind to our own flaws, more judgmental of others, and more prone to selfishness, hate, and other negative behaviors. That’s a far more admirable and romantic quality than merely being perfect – it’s a constant struggle to be the best we can humanly be.
We should all be cognoscente of this indisputable aspect of our nature, and do our best to overcome it. Most importantly, we must keep all this in mind when it’s our turn to scrutinize others. Try to empathize with their alibis or claims. Ask yourself if you’d do the same in their position, or if you ever have already. Judge them as you’d want to be judge, and try not to be too harsh, lest you find yourself in their compromised position.
None of this easy, of course. I can write about this as much as I want in my current level-headed state, but when the scenario arises, my higher-thinking won’t always kick in. The same goes for many others, who have also tried, as I have, to be better people consistently. The point is to try as much as possible, as hard and genuinely as we can. Most human endeavors are journeys, not destinations. It’s in the attempt that we really prove ourselves.
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- examined-life said: Thoughtful and eloquently put!
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