Why Hypocrisy Makes Your Head Explode
It’s an abuse of trust, but you can fight against it
We’re seeing hypocrisy play out in the political sphere to an extreme degree, and it’s driving many of us wild with rage.
The hypocrisy of Republicans installing Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court days before an election was almost too much to take in. The blatant reversal of standards, logical contortions required to defend the move, and sheer two-faced twisting of the national narrative surrounding fairness — applied specifically to the Supreme Court, one of the most esteemed arbiters of justice in the world — is beyond what a reasonable person can bear.
We’re not just mad because of the intellectual insult. It’s personal. We’re mad because our trust is being abused, that it makes a mockery of the kindness with which most people, on most days, approach the world. It destroys any expectations we have of baseline reciprocity for the generosity that makes cooperation possible.
We’re mad because the fabric of our daily lives is woven from small and large decisions that balance our needs with those of our neighbors and colleagues. We fund schools we don’t attend and stop for pedestrians at crosswalks even when we’re in a hurry. We give up our seats on public transit for people who need them more, and we take on more work when someone on our team is struggling. In the moment, these small actions are sometimes annoying and frequently inconvenient, but they align our actions with ideals like treating others as we’d like to be treated and creating a safe world for all living things.
Being a good human is hard work. It’s one of the central struggles of existence. And nothing undermines that work more than hypocrisy — the act of saying you’re doing one thing while doing another.
But we can stand up to hypocrites in a way that counteracts their hypocrisy and creates a more equitable world in which the rules apply to everyone. But doing so requires knowing exactly why it offends us so much in the first place.
Hypocrisy is a false signal
A 2017 Yale University study found that what people hated most about hypocrisy was “false signaling” — condemning behavior that you then engage in…