Time to Retire “Hypocrite”

I bet you never called someone a hypocrite and ended that exchange with an increased closeness and respect for each other; the word is filled more with smugness than utility.

Accusing another that way gives us a feeling of superiority, but what a hollow feeling. If someone claims to be a certain way, and you witness them failing to live up to their own goal, better to remind them of their goal and assist them in returning to it. It is not an easy strategy– it can be far more difficult than lobbing an insult – but the reward is substantially more.

You may think that the price that you pay for this strategy is the heated conversation that will surely ensue. But there is a higher price: by being tough on them in reminding them to keep with their goals, you give them permission to be just as tough on you when you slide from your own goals. This the true reason we fail to assist others when they slide; because when we slide it’s not because we forgot, it’s because keeping our goal is difficult, and we don’t want anyone keeping us to our commitment. When we remind someone else that they slid from their commitments and make them uncomfortable in asking them to recommit, we give the other person (and implicitly, everyone) permission to do the same with us.

There’s a lot wrapped in the term hypocrite. It fails to make a difference with others because we don’t want anyone making a difference with us. It’s time to grow beyond that.

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