Hypocrisy vs. Integrity

I don’t know how much you follow the news, but it seems to me that hypocrisy has gotten worse since COVID first hit nearly three years ago. Even though the COVID threat has largely abated, however, the hypocrisy continues. Two recent examples (not COVID-related) have especially caught my attention.

The first one was in November, when somewhere between 100 and 400 private jets, depending on the news source, flew delegates to the latest United Nations climate conference in Egypt. To be fair, the vast majority of the 33,000 participants did not get there by private jet. However, you would think that any public figure who is truly concerned about climate change–and attending such a conference!–would not take a private jet, for obvious reasons. John Kerry, who is “the first United States special presidential envoy for climate,” learned his lesson and flew commercial this time; in 2019, he was widely mocked for flying to Iceland by private jet to accept a–wait for it–climate change leadership award called the Arctic Circle Award. At the time, Kerry had defended himself, saying, “If you offset your carbon, it’s the only choice for somebody like me who is traveling the world to win this battle.” This only increased the mockery. 100-400 other delegates to the Egypt conference two months ago haven’t learned John Kerry’s lesson.

The second example of hypocrisy, still ongoing, has to do with classified documents. You may recall that in August of last year, the FBI raided President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home to get back some classified government documents that were stored there. One question was whether Trump had declassified them, which is unclear because there is not a clear process for declassification. Regardless, the heavily redacted affidavit that was used to justify the raid reveals neither criminal intent nor evidence of obstruction on Trump’s part. In fact, “The FBI acknowledges the return of 15 boxes of materials and ongoing communications with Trump’s lawyers attempting to resolve any outstanding disputes regarding which, if any, remaining documents ought to be turned over. This would appear to provide evidence of cooperation with authorities, rather than obstruction.” This is according to Brett L. Tolman, a former U.S. attorney with a criminal justice career that spans decades. However, this didn’t keep historian Michael Beschloss from suggesting that Trump be executed; former CIA director Michael Hayden agreed.

Compare what happened at Mar-a-Lago with the discovery two months ago of classified government documents taken by then-Vice President Joe Biden and stored at the Penn Biden Center for over half a decade. The investigation is ongoing, but at least two things already stand out to me. First of all, the documents were in an insecure setting for more than five years. Second, these documents were taken by Biden when he was Vice-President. Only the President has the right to declassify government documents and thus take them. Leftist pundits in the news media had already tried to defend Biden’s taking of these classified documents by saying, among other things, that the documents are “a small number,” especially compared with the 300+ found at Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago. Oh, but wait, another box of classified documents taken by Biden appeared just hours ago at a “second location.” It’s obvious that we can expect more such documents to be found.

When I think about hypocrisy, I also think about its opposite, integrity. In its most basic sense, integrity means “wholeness.” I decided to Google “integrity,” and while most of the sites that came up were only about integrity in the workplace, a couple of them had a broader focus. Here are a few examples of integrity (with my brief commentary) taken from https://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-integrity.html

  • Keep your promises, even if it takes extra effort. While I don’t use the word “promise,” (will you believe me if sometimes I say “I promise..” but at other times I don’t?), but I do use phrases like “I will” and “I can’t.” I want people to believe me when I say I will or can’t do something.
  • Inform the cashier he gave you too much change back. In today’s world, this is increasingly unlikely to happen; on the other hand, I often see older people pay with cash. I usually pay by credit, but in my life, there have been a couple times where I’ve done this. I’ve also informed the cashier when I didn’t get enough change!
  • Do not gossip or talk badly about someone. Gossip means that you have the desire to hurt someone. “Talking badly” about someone is something I have sometimes done with my kids (I have two grown “kids”) because I think it’s important for us to learn from negative examples. If there was a name attached, it was usually someone that I had talked to either directly or indirectly (e.g. to a parent of the person).
  • Ignore someone’s advice on how to cheat on your taxes and not get caught. This is not an area that I have ever struggled with, but I know some have.
  • Do not let someone else take the blame for something you did. I’m sorry to say that as a child, I did not adhere to this one at least once that I remember. However, I have confessed it to the Lord and been forgiven.
  • If someone gives you confidential information, never tell anyone what you know. This one has been hard for me at times, but I really try to adhere to it. It’s usually something personal, and sometimes I have been given permission to share it with my wife; at other times, I have shared something from longer ago without giving a name. However, for the deepest confidentiality with a friend, I have not shared it; I am honored when someone chooses to share something that deep with me.

What does the Bible say about hypocrisy? The Lord God has very harsh words to say to hypocritical religious leaders. This is especially clear in the words of Jesus, Who said, for example, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (Matthew 23:13-15) As for political leaders, Romans 13:1 tells us, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” First of all, as Christians we are expected to obey those in political leadership. (There are exceptions, of course.) Second, because those authorities have been established by God, those individuals in leadership are accountable to Him. I have written more about religious and political hypocrisy; click here if you’re interested: https://keithpetersenblog.com/2020/11/12/religious-and-political-hypocrisy/

On the other hand, lest we believers who are neither religious leaders nor political leaders think that we are off the hook, here’s what James 1:22 says: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Let us all strive to be men and women of integrity, of wholeness and consistency, whose actions match our words.

8 thoughts on “Hypocrisy vs. Integrity

  1. The irony should be obvious to anyone when people flying around in private jets and dining on steak want to tell the rest of us to ride bicycles and eat bugs. But people I know and love who profess to be concerned about “carbon footprints” don’t seem to see it – or the way their own lives contradict what they preach. It makes me wonder what kind of un-Christian behavior I might be blind to in my own life … :/ God help us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, contradictions abound; I think that’s why people with integrity stand out more and more. I’ve been surprised at how often I hear or read a young person communicating something to the effect that they appreciate how important honesty is to them–and that’s a good thing! And we all have blind spots; thankfully, in communities with koinonia, we have brothers and sisters to help us see them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As a short story writer, reading this blog post about hypocrisy vs integrity made me think about how these themes play out in real life and how they can be incorporated into fiction. The examples provided in the post, such as private jet use at a climate conference and the handling of classified documents, highlight the stark contrast between those who act with integrity and those who do not. It’s a reminder that in any story, it’s important to consider not only the actions of the characters, but also their motivations and integrity.

    Liked by 1 person

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