I’ve been caught up in a debate this week about hypocrites. It is my stance that just because someone is hypocritical does not mean you should necessarily discount their message and by association, every other thing that comes out of their mouth.
For example, if someone speaks out about animal rights and yet wears leather, does that mean that their animal rights message is wrong? Or If Al Gore’s carbon footprint is larger than it should be, does that mean that global climate change doesn’t exist? I know a scary number of people who believe this.
My opinion is that painting people and their opinions in either black or white, with absolutely no shades of grey, is actually rather simplistic and, frankly, childish. Black and white thinking limits your sources of knowledge and wisdom to a ridiculous degree. If only non-hypocrites should be entertained, then no one on this planet will be able to teach you anything or even render an opinion. After all, even Ghandi cheated on his wife. Does that mean we discount his philosophy of non-violence? Then who would Martin Luther King have modeled himself after? Ben Franklin treated his wife and son like crap, but he’s still my hero, and I still love the wit and wisdom of Poor Richard’s Almanac.
We’re all human. We all have flaws. But I also believe we all have things to teach, even if our only lesson happens to be, “Don’t be like me.”
The reason people of the past seemed so perfect to their contemporaries was that they weren’t speeding merrily along the information highway at the time. Nowadays it’s much easier to find the skeletons in people’s closets. In fact, many people delight in doing so. My theory is that because our skeletons are no longer hidden, and because some people seem hell-bent on discounting others entirely based on those very skeletons, we often feel as if we’re adrift without a moral compass or spiritual direction. I find this depressing.
Instead of discounting a message based on the messenger, or even worse, spending an inordinate amount of time trying to discredit the messenger, perhaps it would be wiser to focus our energy on the message, and form our opinions based on what we, the message receivers, discover. Then maybe life wouldn’t feel so out of our control.
Judging people as a whole should be reserved for elections and court cases. Life’s just too freakin’ short to do otherwise.