So, turns out that we humans are wired to be hypocritical. According to Jonathan Haidt, author of the Happiness Hypothesis (and references therein), our opinions and perspectives are driven by our feelings, then justified by our consciousness. Since our feelings are neither logical nor rational, then we are routinely defending and justifying our visceral feeling and proclaiming it to be reality.
I don’t know about you but that concept stopped me short. Like everyone else, I’ve been right there feeling like a smart, rational person who makes informed, reasonable decisions. Though I sometimes indulge in complaining about people that we love to complain about, a part of me feels hypocritical as that criticism says just as much (or more) about me as it does the one I’m griping about. So, on some level, I have looked for hypocrisy in my own life, but not like this. I had thought that I was living my values of being trustworthy, a good citizen, a hard worker, ecologically-minded, fairness, opportunity for all, responsibility, and loving my neighbor. Where have I been falling short of living my values?
This is going to take more reflection than I have been able engage in up until now. In the meantime, here is where I will be more attentive:
- More random acts of kindness
- Walk more, drive less
- Shop the farmer’s market more regularly
- Volunteer more
- Be more deliberate when making decisions that affects others
- Give more to charitable causes
- Be proactive about finding opportunities for helping those that are struggling
I think just knowing that we are wired for hypocrisy will make me more aware and cautious about my certainty. As an opinionated person, I hope this means I will approach subjects with a more balanced approach and engage in conversations or thought processes with a more open-minded attitude.
There are the gentler spirits among us that already struggle with voicing their opinions. They do not want to offend or make an error. To you, I also refer to Haidt who talks about satisficers versus maximizers. Maximizers tend to perfection and excellence, and take extra time to make decisions. Satisficers tend to be satisfied with “good enough.” The latter often do not make as many good decisions as maximizers, but they are happier. Satisficers are content falling short of perfection. So, given we are prone to hypocrisy and error, being imperfect is human nature. We are wired to err and have faults. The question is just whether we forgive ourselves and others, and move on productively, or wallow in our shortcomings and failures. It’s just as bad to turn that criticism inwards as it is to deflect it onto others.
Even this very blog is hypocritical. I don’t always practice what I preach. I recentlywrote about a sleepless night filled with self-recrimination. Rather than begin every sentence with an “I don’t know but I think that….,” we can just have a mental astrick by our thoughts that say, “maybe.” Or not?