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The Psychology of Hypocrisy – Why We Do it & How to Stop

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Everyone has been prone to hypocrisy at one point or another. It’s virtually impossible to live up entirely to one’s own moral code, as we are all humans that make mistakes. We may sincerely believe in objective morality, but find ourselves making excuses when it comes to our shortcomings.

There tends to be a strong cognitive dissonance between the way we judge our loved ones and the way we judge others who act in the same way. Is this cognizant dissonance a type of defense mechanism? And why are some more prone than others to engage in hypocrisy? Finally, how can we overcome hypocrisy and learn humility? Here is what the experts say -

What is Hypocrisy?

Hypocrisy is defined as the practice of claiming to have moral standards or views to which one’s own behavior (or the behavior of people in our family or tribe) does not meet. It is a pretense of morality that cloaks our inability to meet some predetermined moral code.

We accuse one person of doing exactly what we are doing but believe that it is somehow “different” when that person does it. It is typically caused by an inflated sense of ego and self-righteousness, coupled with an inability to be humble.

According to experts, it is a form of projection, which is a common defense mechanism that takes root in adolescence. It is a way to protect ourselves from harm. When a teenager is accused of some wrongdoing, he/she might claim “well my brother did it too!” Its purpose is to avoid personal responsibility and to gain control over a situation without admitting any wrong responsibility.

What Causes Hypocrisy?

At the root of hypocrisy is fear and low self-esteem. We use hypocrisy to avoid looking at our shortcomings and figure out our part in it. It typically stems from a sincere belief that we should not be held to the same standards as others because we have better intentions. Our belief is juster, nobler, and sincerer.

It feels good to be morally superior to someone else. It helps us to avoid humility, which is a very painful emotion. Even the best of us use hypocrisy when we feel attacked. For example, in the workplace, we may enjoy gossiping about our coworker’s poor performance but are secretly concerned about our own job performance. It’s a deflection to avoid dealing with our own problems because we don’t want to be judged.

At the root of hypocrisy is a strong desire to be loved and accepted. The fear of humility and judgment is so powerful, that we use doublethink and cognitive dissonance to avoid facing ourselves.

How Can We Stop Being Hypocrites?

To stop being a hypocrite, we must first examine our own moral code and determine whether there are any contradictions in it. Objective morality is the best tool to help us overcome hypocrisy. Objective morality is the belief that meaning is not open for interpretation, and that something is true regardless of who is involved in a situation. In other words, stealing is wrong in and of itself. Abuse is wrong in and of itself. Hurting someone’s feelings is wrong in and of itself.

We must also stop pretending to be anything other than human. We must admit that we are imperfect beings who are prone to make mistakes. We must learn to laugh at ourselves and look at our own shortcomings less seriously. We must recognize that every one of us is prone to wrongdoing.

Putting ourselves in other people’s shoes can also be helpful. Learn about others. Get to know your enemies. Think about where they are coming from. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Think about how much it hurts to be accused of something that you are doing yourself. Putting ourselves in other people’s shoes can also be tremendously helpful in decreasing our inflated ego and self-righteousness.

Other tips include –

· Ignore what other people are doing and focus on yourself

· Stop condemning others so quickly

· Pinpoint context and how it alters the way that you think/believe

· Start paying attention to your cognitive dissonance

· Reserve judgment until you have experienced something

· Stop making promises you can’t keep

· Start to laugh at yourself more and stop taking yourself so seriously

· Become more spiritual

Hypocrisy is Lonely

Finally, remember that people have difficulty trusting or having compassion for hypocrites. Others are likely to forgive you for making a mistake, but they have a harder time forgiving someone who refuses to admit they have made a mistake.

Instead of being afraid to show your human side, embrace it. At the root of hypocrisy is a desire to be loved and accepted without judgment. When the hypocrite starts to show humility and become more authentic, he/she will get exactly that.

Do you always worry about others judging you or criticizing you? Do you struggle with low-self-esteem and fear? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.

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