How to Not be a Hypocrite: What I’ve Been Doing Wrong

June 11, 2014

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Being a Parental Hypocrite

All throughout the day, I am instructing my three children to apologize to one another. Mistreating one another physically or verbally isn’t tolerated, and is met with discipline and then instruction to sincerely apologize.

Then there’s me.

Annoyed and snappy with my daughter.

Rough with my slow son on the walk to the car.

Disrespectful to my husband with a sharp comment.

Yelling at my kids to “just be quiet” and “knock it off”.

And not an apology in sight. Do you know what that makes me?

A complete hypocrite.

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What Makes Me a Hypocrite?

The message I am sending my children is not a good one, and it’s this:

I am an adult, and I can do what I want. But you? You’re a child and you must act perfectly and be humble and be kind and be Jesus, all the time. No excuses. Do it or I will discipline you again.

When I don’t apologize for what I do wrong, I’m showing my kids that you don’t always need to do the right thing. I’m showing them that it’s okay to just skip the apology.

But it’s not.

If I reverse this, and I am careful to apologize when I mess up, because I will mess up, then my children are seeing a real, living example of what it is to be a Christ-follower.

They see what it is to be human, but to live in grace, forgiven and humble.

Learning to Avoid Being a Hypocrite

Today I got very angry with my oldest after she asked me for a Popsicle for the fifteenth time. She ran away to her room crying, which annoyed me because I had already told her “no” calmly so many times. God tapped on my heart and I knew what I needed to do.

“Bella, I’m sorry I yelled at you. That was not okay, and it was wrong of me. Please forgive me for using my voice to hurt you.”

My daughter’s face went from shock to understanding– understanding of what it means to mess up and apologize.

She told me she forgave me, then apologized for not listening and asking for a Popsicle so many times.

And I didn’t even have to tell her to.

I led her by example and it clicked.

How to Stop Being a Hypocrite

1. Stop lying

Stop lying. To begin with, stop lying to yourself about your present condition. Most self-described Christians are liars. They lie to themselves that they are in a good relationship with their God and that they have no sin (1 John 1:8) or try to make themselves seem perfect. They struggle but don’t want anyone to see it.

2. Be honest about your thoughts and feelings

The human mind is infinitely complex. It harbors all sorts of things, some good and some bad. As Christians, we’re told not even to think about doing the wrong thing, but what happens when our thoughts betray us? We may be tempted to say something spiteful when we didn’t really want to. While God knows everything that passes through your head anyway [Matthew 10:26], it’s still good practice to be honest with yourself about why you feel the way you do. Otherwise, you could end up acting like a hypocrite without even knowing it!

Be honest with your children too! They can learn from you through your owns struggles. Admit what you struggle with.

woman taking off mask

3. Take responsibility for your actions

If you are a hypocrite, it is because of your actions. God will not come down from heaven and tell you what to do. You should be taking personal responsibility for yourself, instead of trying to duck out on the responsibility all the time (which is SOOOO hard).

To take responsibility means:

– Admitting that you were wrong when you’ve sinned;

-apologizing to those who were offended or hurt by what you did;

-confessing your sins before God and asking for forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice

– working on the problem!

4. Do not judge other people’s behavior or beliefs

This one is hard, but if you think about it, all the hypocrite accusation you make against others could be made just as easily against yourself. Granted, there are certain beliefs that you may have which everyone around you does not hold. But even in this case, why say anything at all? Is it any of our business?

Plus, you don’t know anyone else’s situation. How hypocritical is it of me to think “Ok, I don’t want people gossiping about me because they don’t know what’s going on” and then I do it to others.

What’s worse is when we realize we often model that behavior for our children. We say “Don’t judge others” while at the same time judging others.

5. Show empathy to those who are struggling with temptation, even if they are different from you in faith or lifestyle

This sets a good example to our children, and helps you avoid hypocrisy .

Each of us struggles with one form or another of temptation. For some it’s promiscuity, for others it’s prideful ambition; some struggle with covetousness while others are tormented by lust. But often we fail to hold empathy towards those who struggle with different forms of temptation. We feel that not being tempted in a certain way makes us better than them, more pious even. This is the worst kind of hypocrite .

We have to teach our kids how to be empathetic to those who are struggling. This is all about GRACE. They will have struggles too, different from everyone else. The hypocritical person judges.

I want to show my kids that free, abundant grace is what others need. Regardless of what we believe about someone else, their choices, or their beliefs, our focus should be

6. Forgive others when they apologize, and ask for forgiveness when you screw up too

Forgiveness is such a huge part of this. Just as I had to ask Bella to forgive me, I want my kids to model forgiveness and a willingness to ASK for forgiveness. There is nothing worse than pride getting in the way of relationship. When we preach to our kids to forgive one another but then aren’t willing to ask for forgiveness ourselves, what sort of behavior is that? We live by higher principles. We have to be willing to admit our mistakes and live openly before our kids. We have to be willing to accept our failings and admit them as well. We have the power to show our kids forgiveness in relationships looks like.

Think how that will benefit their future marriages, friendships and work relationships.


My Prayer

My kids remembering me as a hypocrite is one of the worst things I can imagine.

My prayer lately is that God would continue to nudge me when I need to apologize, to my child, my husband, a friend, or a stranger. It is so incredibly humbling, but isn’t humility the very best way I can be Jesus to somebody?

After all, He lived out the ultimate humble act on the cross for me. I want my children to know how to live that out in daily life. That lesson starts with the story of the cross, and it continues every single day with me and how I live.

If you need some ideas on how to speak positivity into your children’s lives, here are some ideas!

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