The Paradox of Hypocritical Thought

Theories regarding hypocrisy and the different types of hypocrisy


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In Islam, there is an idea called nifāq. Nifāq is a type of hypocrisy shown in the munafiqun which are a group of Muslims who were said to be unsympathetic towards the cause of Muslims. Outlined in Sahih al-Bukhari, one of the most important books for Sunni Muslims, “The prophet Muhammad said: ‘The signs of a hypocrite are three:

  1. Whenever he speaks, he tells a lie.
  2. Whenever he promises, he always breaks it (his promise).
  3. If you trust him, he proves to be dishonest. (If you keep something as a trust with him, he will not return it.)’”

But is the hypocrite aware of their lies, their broken promises, or their lack of two-way trust?

The answer to this question is either yes or no, depending upon the person.The person who is unaware shall be deemed the ‘authentic hypocrite’. The aware person shall be deemed to be the ‘intentional hypocrite’; most ‘intentional hypocrites’ are only somewhat aware of their own hypocrisy, but they still intentionally continue hypocritical actions.

  The ‘authentic hypocrite’ suffers from a psychological phenomenon called cognitive dissonance (the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas, or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values).

 If one is ‘authentically hypocritical’, they defy existing beliefs, ideas, or values in a way of which they believe they are in the right and they are following their existing beliefs, ideas and values.

 The ‘intentional hypocrite’ defies their existing beliefs, ideas and values and knows they are consciously or have a complete lack of values to defy and this is an unforgivable action. There is a quote of  William Hazlitt that goes “The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy.” If I were to elaborate upon this concept it means that if one apologizes for being a hypocrite then they further this assertion that they are a hypocrite and that is practically impossible to forgive, because they are unable to escape this circular hypocrisy.

  The person may say, “I am sorry for being a hypocrite.”  Sadly, they are only apologizing, because they were caught within the trap of hypocrisy. It is within this circular hypocrisy where the paradox lies. The authentic hypocrite may transition into an intentional hypocrite, because they will intentionally ignore preexisting beliefs to try and escape being a hypocrite. No matter what once you are branded a hypocrite, you stay one.

  Hypocrisy is good when authentic, because it identifies a truly genuine person someone who has no control over the fact that they are a hypocrite, they stay true to themselves. While hypocritical hypocrites displays ingenuity and are people who should not be trusted for they are the people who defy themselves and don’t trust themselves the most. Although, hypocrisy has a tendency to be contained within ideology and perspective. In other words, the recognition of someone as a hypocrite is a burden to be bear upon the person or persons who recognize the culprit of hypocritical action(s).

   Edward Burke recognized authentic hypocrisy. He has a quote stating, “Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises, for never intending to go beyond promise, it costs nothing.” Arthur Schopenhauer connected the ideas of modesty and authentic hypocrisy by stating, “With people of limited ability, modesty is merely honesty. But with those who possess great talent, it is hypocrisy.”

  Many extremely intelligent writers such as Michael Gerson recognize that without hypocrisy in either form, there are no ideals to be upheld.  Without lies, there is no standard of truth. Without broken promises, there is no promise at all, there is no trust to be had. Without your trust being betrayed, there is no risk for trust.

  Hypocrisy is what makes us human and it creates standards and ideals. Hypocrisy is one of the most important parts of society, because it supports the occurrence of change and separates people into recognizable ‘good’ and ‘bad’ groups.

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