Hypocrisy has been described as an inconsistency between what is professed and what is practiced. The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 2:1 “Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind.” But how do we go about ridding ourselves of all hypocrisy? Every one is a hypocrite in different areas of life. I came up with ten ways to battle hypocrisy in my life, maybe you can come up with some others. What do you think?
1. Admit that you aren’t perfect: 1 John 1:8 says “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” All of us have room to improve and the gospel of Christ is the power of God to change for the better. Even in the our areas of expertise, we can still get better. Admitting our shortcomings, identifying them and making a commitment to work on them will help us in guarding our lives against inconsistencies.
2. Practice accountability: Who are the people that speak into your life. Do they know you well enough to correct you when you are wrong, without you being offended? If there is no one in your life who loves you enough to tell you uncomfortable truths about yourself, then you need to work on cultivating those relationships. The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5:21 “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Are you practicing submission by allowing others to correct and encourage you? We all have blind spots, areas of our lives that we cannot see, and need others to see for us. A good place to start with developing these kinds of relationships is to get involved in a local church where accountability is practiced.
3. Tell the truth: This one is hard in many respects. Although many of us would consider ourselves honest people, the Bible makes it clear that we are not. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure…”, the prophet Jeremiah tells us, so how do we go about telling the truth to others and to ourselves? A good place to start is with the instruction of Christ in Matthew 5:37 “Just say a simple “Yes I will”, or “No I won’t”, anything beyond this is from the evil one.” Avoid excuses, or exaggeration, make a commitment to do something and do it, or be honest and say “No”, and then don’t feel guilty for being honest. This principle applies to what we say to others and to ourselves.
4. Pray: Maybe this is obvious. But in prayer we open ourselves up to what God’s Spirit may want to speak to our hearts or reveal about our lives. In Psalm 51 there is recorded for us David’s prayer of repentance after his act of adultery, in verse six he prays, “Behold you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” Pray these kinds of prayers, and give God an opportunity to correct and cleanse any hypocrisy that may be lurking in your life.
5. Read challenging books and articles: If we are not careful we will spend most of our life pursuing what is easy and comfortable. Apathy cultivates hypocrisy. So in order to combat apathy it is important that we challenge our thinking and actions. One good way to do this is by reading and endeavoring to apply what we have read in challenging areas of our lives. Start reading today!
6. Help Others: By focusing less on ourselves and more on others, we will diminish the need to prop ourselves up with falsehoods. When you and I help someone we enter into a place where we “lose ourselves”, this is a good thing. It starves our unhealthy need for attention, and feeds the positive needs of our souls with the nourishment of kindness given and received.
7. Stay Busy: Downtime will often lead to imagining and fostering false truths about ourselves and others. Keep your mind and body busy with productive activities such as volunteering for your church of a charity. Exercising is great for your long term health and short term well being as well, anything that contributes to productivity in our lives and minds is a step in the right direction.
8. Rest: This is not a contradiction to number seven, but a reminder that in all of our busyness we must get plenty of rest. Even God understood this, giving us the perfect example of working six days and resting on seventh. Understand that your body and mind need rest, by doing so you will be better equipped to do the work that God intends for you to accomplish.
9. Practice silence and solitude: Balance your life by spending time by yourself, without all the noise of life intruding. When we are constantly around others, we may feel the need to exaggerate the impression we want to make leading to acts of hypocrisy. Proverbs 10:19 cautions us “Too much talking leads to sin, be sensible and keep your mouth shut.” Find creative ways to be quiet and alone during the day.
10. Laugh: Stop taking yourself so seriously. We all do funny things, so don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. Practice making yourself the butt of the joke, and encourage others to laugh at your expense. This will diminish your need to disguise your short comings and will authenticate your desires for transparency, while endearing you to others. The words of Proverbs 17:22 are still true, “A cheerful heart is good medicine…” Take the medicine of good cheer and watch the symptoms of hypocrisy dissipate.
Jesus reserved some of his most powerful rebukes for hypocrites, calling them “whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones” (Matthew 23:27). These are just a few ways to avoid that indictment of Christ in our own lives. The challenge for all of us is to practice authenticity and to follow the path of repentance, understanding that God’s grace is always available for all of our needs.