Parenting and Hypocrisy
origin of the word Hypocrisy is from
the Greek hypokrisis i.e. act of playing a part on the stage. The Miriam Webster
Dictionary defines Hypocrisy as �a feigning to be what one is not or to
believe what one does not; especially : the false assumption of an
appearance of virtue or religion� Since
time immemorial, hypocrisy has been a central concept in our moral evaluation of
behavior. More specifically, hypocrisy has been a
central concept in identifying how people fail to behave morally.
can be approached in several ways. The first approach is to identify hypocrisy
simply as the failure to practice what one preaches. When a person is
confronted by such a failure in his or her behavior, a cognitive dissonance with
the self-concept is aroused. This results in the behavioral hypocritical
responses. This approach is based on the assumption that it is inherently
unpleasant to observe that one is not practicing what one preaches and that
THEREFORE hypocrisy is a failure to practice what one preaches.
second approach identifies hypocrisy as a motivation to appear moral without
incurring the cost of actually being moral. On this approach, morality is
assumed to be a matter of adhering to certain principles such as fairness.
Following such principles enables us to realize social and self-related rewards
but sometimes entails costs that we would rather not pay. However,
this approach assumes that hypocrisy invariably implies immorality. Consider,
for example, a Palestinian who hides his identity and even professes Semitic
attitudes in order to escape persecution in Israel. Such an act may constitute
hypocrisy in the sense that the Palestinian publicly endorses a belief that he
does not accept. However, because not being such a hypocrite may entail grave
consequences for the Palestinian in this case, we might well judge him as being
morally correct, and therefore not a hypocrite in the final analysis. This
raises the question as to whether we can identify
hypocrisy as a deviation from the
achievement of self-interest instead of as a deviation from the application of
the cognitive dissonance approach, hypocrisy only seems to arise when it is
self-diagnosed--that is, when one's actions clash with one's self-concept. On
the immorality approach, hypocrisy is a diagnosis of one's own failure to act
according to moral principle. One of the limitations of the literature on
hypocrisy has been its exclusive focus on hypocrisy as a judgment ABOUT ONESELF.
Neither the dissonance nor immorality paradigms have been used to investigate
people's judgments of hypocrisy IN OTHERS.
us now deviate a little and explore a related concept, that of
�situational irony�. Situational irony is simply a state of affairs
that people consider to be ironic. Such situations may be explicitly
labeled beginning with the phrase, "It's ironic that ", as in
"It's ironic that the police arrested a policeman for embezzlement�.
However, a study of 250 examples judged to be situational irony taken
from news articles, showed that more than 5% referred to cases such as
two Mexican citizens who were arrested in California on charges of drug
trafficking, and appealed extradition
to Mexico for trial, on the basis that the police had violated their human
rights to obtain information from them. Now, the same facts that make the
situation of the Mexicans ironic also make them hypocrites.
bicoherence theory of situational irony suggests that these judgments (hypocrisy
and irony) are made on the basis of bicoherent conceptual structure i.e. a
hypocrite can have an attitude towards a concept YET not let that attitude
affect his behaviour on that concept. Consider the case of hit men for a
Columbian drug cartel, who, when caught, complained that authorities violated
their human rights in obtaining information from them, a complaint that is both
ironic and hypocritical. Normally, we would expect coherence between the
attitude that someone has for human rights, and the influence that human rights
have on that person's behavior--that is, if A respects B, then B should
influence A. In the case of the hit men, we find that they respect human
rights (according to them) but that human rights do not influence their
behavior. This state of affairs constitutes Bicoherence.
then, can hypocrisy be defined as a policy irony that contravenes universal
moral norms, where a policy is a general rule about how to act under given
circumstances? However, a study has found that 25% of judgements
identified as hypocrisies do not meet this criterion. These 25% judged as
hypocrites, were simply people who contravened rules that they had made for
themselves. There was no implication that these people had acted immorally
but their actions were merely misguided. Thus identification of someone as
a hypocrite seem to constitute a diagnosis of some sort of moral defect, but
precisely what kind of defect is not yet clear. This indicates that failure to
act according to any given policy, moral or not, could constitute hypocrisy.
when presented with a hypocritical situation, people are briefly aware that the
situation is ironic before classifying it specifically as hypocritical.
Let us look
at some ramifications of Hypocrisy. Hypocrisy rears its head early in parenting,
but it mostly appears in very subtle ways. Sometimes it is rooted in the
confusion that arises when a child hears one thing at school and another at
home; one direction from one parent, and a second from the other; one set of
guidelines in one classroom, and an entirely different set in the next. In other
instances, it stems from simple inconsistency: a child has just learned a lesson
or a rule, only to find her parent breaking it, making an exception, or
explaining it away. All this is usually harmless enough. It is part of life.
problem arises - and this is more widespread than one might think - when
children are taught to "do as I say, not as I do." Told this
half-jokingly in one situation after another, they gradually learn that there is
never anything so black and white that is always good or bad, at least not until
they make the wrong choice at the wrong time. When that happens, they get
punished for their lapse of judgment. And they will always find the punishment
these anguished questions from a student at Texas A&M who felt compelled to
explain, after the Columbine massacre, why she thought things had "become
you ever fall victim to the notion that kids are just as well off being raised
by a complete stranger at a day care center than by their own mother or father?
Why do you look down on parents who decide to quit work and stay home to raise their children?
Why do you allow us to watch violent movies but expect us to maintain some type of childlike innocence?
Why do you allow us to spend unlimited amounts of time on the Internet but still are shocked about our knowledge of how to build bombs?�
Accusing as some of these questions may seem, every one of them is valid, and vital for every parent to consider. Many of the issues they raise are too complex to answer in words alone, but they all touch on one central issue: the widespread perception of young adults that their elders are hypocrites.
There is no
question that every parent "tries hard" to raise good children. Given
the state of our culture, which undercuts parents at every twist and turn, it's
impossible to bring up any family at all without trying hard. But there's also
no question that despite all our efforts, we are far from the models we ought to
be. And the burden is on every parent, not of some vague, dark power called
misconception is the notion that
expecting good behavior from your children when you haven�t exactly been a
saint yourself is �hypocrisy.� This is not hypocrisy�this is learning from
your mistakes. Kids are good at calling adults �hypocrites,� and it works
almost every time to make their parents feel guilty and back off on reasonable
to Washington Post op-ed columnist William Raspberry the hypocrisy of pretending
to be a better person can benefit society. He cites the time he was invited to
speak at the University of Mississippi a few years after James Meredith became
the first black student to attend the school in 1962, sparking riots on the
campus and how surprised he was to note how many parents claimed to support the
civil rights movement at the time--something Raspberry, a native Mississippian,
finds not possible. But then, he noted, they want to think of themselves as
reasonable people and good citizens; to do so, they had to pretend they never
had been racists. He believes that these parents became less racist through the
hypocrisy of pretending to be less racist
Some parts of our society are built on hypocrisy. E.g. there is a part of us that feel that it is inhumane or uncivilized to strictly advocate the survival of the fittest notion. We feel that it is unethical or immoral to advocate the idea that the lucky people succeed in life and live happily, and the unlucky ones fail and live unhappily. We want to be judged according to our efforts, not by what we are born with. On one side, we are all about competition, and on the other, we are all about being humane. On the one side we talk about fairness, on the other survival of the fittest. This is never more true than in politics