Has this ever happened to you? You’re talking with someone and there is mention of a situation where someone is choosing to do something you both agree is morally wrong. Yet, the person says, “Well, I’ve done the same thing, so I can’t really say anything.”
Is it just me, or does this sound a bit like some sort of moral relativism or avoidance issue? It’s odd to me that when it comes to certain things, people feel this way, but then are very inconsistent and don’t exhibit these same inhibitions with other areas of “moral failure.”
Perhaps a couple examples would make this easier to understand. I can think of two examples to show the contrast and the breakdown of the whole consistency of people when it comes to this kind of thing. These examples are, of course, based on the Christian world-view and biblical values.
In the first case, let’s take a look at a small group of people…some of whom are married and some of whom are dating. In this case, let’s just assume that at least one of the dating couples has been and continues to be intimate with one another. And, let’s just say that at least one of the married couples had been intimate with one another prior to being married. With me so far?
The married couple, then, when asked about pre-marital relations may respond with some sense of “yes, I know it’s wrong and it’s a sin, but we did the same thing so we can’t really say anything.” Really? While I will agree that if the unmarried couple are not professing Christ, you don’t really have a leg to stand on to hold them accountable to biblical teaching, if they are Christians and do accept the Bible as authoritative, just because you made a similar (or even the same) mistake doesn’t mean you should just turn your back on the situation.
That would be like going down a road, finding it closed due to some natural disaster and then not telling a friend who is going to head that way and making them have to get all the way down that road only to find out that it’s closed. You could have saved them all that trouble of going there, turning around and trying to figure out a way around it.
What about another example?
If we follow this logic that since we committed the same “crimes” and therefore we have no right to tell others not to do the same, how does one discipline one’s own child? Aren’t many of the things that children do (even teenagers who have more reasoning capability than toddlers…supposedly) the same things that we did at that age? So, if I snuck out of the house and was sleeping around with different girls when I was in high school, should I just figure that I can’t tell my son not to do that because that would be hypocritical?
We need to get a better understanding of what hypocrisy is before we start applying that label to situations that it should not be applied. Hypocrisy is NOT when you tell someone not to do the same wrong thing that you did and have since realized it was wrong. Hypocrisy is when you judge someone else while committing the same sin yourself.
The key here is “judge.” That means that you can hold someone accountable, for example, for watching pornography even while you struggle and sometimes even fail in that area yourself. Holding someone accountable for something is distinctly different from judging them for it. If you think about it, this is pretty much how AA works. Your accountability partner is someone who struggles with the same thing as you and as such you both lend strength to each other to avoid doing the wrong thing.
When you do hold someone accountable, the main thing is don’t judge. Point out the facts. Address the issue. But always do so with compassion and understanding. It is when you judge, condemn, condescend…that’s when it becomes hypocrisy. I can have issues with lust and still tell my guy friends that lust is wrong. As long as I don’t look down my nose at them and preach at them telling them that they are sinners for their lust and are going to burn in hell (or some such thing).
So, let’s make sure we understand what is and what is not hypocritical. We can still hold one another accountable to the Bible’s teachings even when we do the same thing. As brothers and sisters in Christ, it is not only allowed, but beneficial…usually for both parties.
Have you ever avoided holding someone accountable because you did the same thing? Do you still think that you shouldn’t hold them accountable in these situations? Why or why not?
Grace, love and peace.