October 9, 2012 Redux in 2016

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Oct. 9 ~ A person doesn’t need to be a hypocrite to hold an opinion differing from your own. #civility

Too often we hear a person maligned as a “hypocrite,” or we malign a person as a hypocrite, when expressing their opinion on an issue. And truthfully, we may be hearing them as very hypocritical. But have we listened well enough and asked good enough questions to understand how they arrived at the position they are espousing, and therefore level such an accusation?

We’re personally involved in the discourse. For me myself, it’s very true that I might be hypocritical indeed should I ever espouse their position. That gut knowledge that things wouldn’t be right for myself in their shoes can mislead me to believing that things aren’t right for them. It becomes too easy to assign the speaker malicious or nefarious motives.

We also often arrive at the conclusion that a person is a hypocrite by selective and easy posturing of ideas and positions into parity or equality. So, we begin by saying that if A = B and B = C, then A = C. This works in mathematics, but might cause a problem in other areas. We go on to say that if Opinion A = Opinion B, and Opinion B equals Opinion C, then Opinion A = Opinion C. It makes sense on the surface.

But in the human mind and heart we have a variety of values and beliefs, and many different experiences. A person may be speaking to Opinions A and B from a certain value and belief, but then speak to Opinion C after adding a second value into the equation. Or, a person’s experience leads them to develop Opinions A, B and C on the same value set, but Opinion B is nuanced out of parity with the others by personal trauma, frustration, pain or relationships.

You can’t know any of this about a person once you label them hypocrite and then have to  bend all of your effort and influence to prove your claim. At the end of the day the person just might be a naughty hypocrite, but it’s not civil to assume that or begin with that presupposition. Civility will draw you into a discourse in which you can know the other and be known, in deeper, meaningful ways.