Have you ever directly or been witness to a situation where a wrongdoing is being called out and the person being called out (or someone defending the person being called out). responds with "Well you do it too!"? I think we all have many times. The idea of it is pretty simple: point out someone's own wrongdoings to make your own wrongdoing either not look so bad or even justified. Practically everyone has done this. You could say it's one of our many naturally built in defense mechanisms against social conflict. Does it make it right? No, not really. And that's what I'm talking about today.
You know who else wields the same tactic? Satan. In fact, one of Satan's most common aliases is "the Accuser". It's his primary weapon to cast doubt in the minds of God's followers, particularly when they stand up to evil and Satan's machinations. The basic strategy is much like the above: a child of God rightfully calls out and stands up to evil when they see it, but then Satan goes "who are YOU to say what is wrong? Look at all the wrong YOU do!". It's an accusation of hypocrisy, something that Jesus greatly despised. You could consider it one of the "big" bad things a Christian can do since a hypocrite can sour God's good news among both believers and non believers alike.
One of the most commonly referenced passages in the Bible regarding hypocrisy is the woman at the well. Being an adulterer the community gathered to stone her to death, but Jesus intervened saying "Those who have not sinned may cast the first the stone". Naturally, no one did because the people they know they had their own sin. The lesson seems obvious: You should not judge someone of wrongdoing when you've done wrong themselves. And it's this lesson that's been wielded by countless people, and Satan himself, to stifle people from standing up to wrong doing.
But they're getting it wrong, either unwittingly or knowingly as is in Satan's case. You see, there's a very crucial distinction between what Satan and countless people do when accusing hypocrisy and what Jesus was doing at the well. Jesus was pointing out only those are sinless can carry out judgment, the actual act of stoning. But notice that Jesus did not keep them from pointing out the woman was an adulterer. In fact, he himself acknowledges the accusation when he tells the woman to go home and sin no more. He doesn't say it was wrong of the people to point out her sin. It was wrong of them to carry out judgment. God alone can carry out judgment.
One curious thing to notice in today's culture is the morphed definition of judgment and judging. Judging used to be about rendering judgment. Sentencing someone for their wrong doings. In the courtroom a judge can determine wrong doing, but notice when the cases are criminal, the judge is separated from determining guilt as that's left to a jury. The jury determines who's wrong, but they do not judge. They simply tell the judge if the defendant is guilty or not. The judge then takes that decision and determines an appropriate sentencing or action to be done. In case it's not clear: pointing out wrong doing is not judging! Yet today, that's exactly how it's seen. If you point out someone's wrong doing, you're seen as judging that person.
And this isn't by accident. This is a ploy by Satan. By changing judging to mean the calling out of wrongdoing, he's successfully tied the calling out of wrongdoing to hypocrisy. Jesus didn't want people at the well to judge, so he wouldn't want anyone else. It's a very stifling tactic. Now, instead of calling out and standing up to evil and wrong, Christians are cowed into believing they're judging, thus leaving one important aspect of Christianity toothless.
And the effects are indeed devastating. It's not only about Christians calling out wrongdoing, it's everyone that points out wrongdoing.
I heard a story today about a mom who was rightfully admonishing her child for forgetting her homework. The child though, having heard from a teacher that her mom used to forget her homework, pointed this out to her mother in an attempt to absolve her own guilt in forgetting her homework.
I've seen one parent attempt to discipline their child's wrongdoings only to have the other parent point out how guilty that parent is of what they were trying to discipline their child. Which is wrong on a number of levels, but I'll explain one in particular below.
"Yeah, but you're not perfect either!"
"So? You do it too!"
In all these cases, the response to the calling out of wrong doing was to call out more wrong doing. They didn't attempt to address their own wrong doing, but attempted to discredit the person pointing it out or justify their wrong doing because someone else is also doing it.
And it's totally wrong of them to do so. If we all avoided calling out wrong doing because we ourselves have also done wrong, then no one would ever call out wrong doing, which is exactly what Satan wants. He wants wrong and evil to run unchecked and unabated as doing so leads people away from God.
One thing to keep in mind in both the Christian and parent perspective is that neither are perfect. Christians are perfect and far from it. In fact, the Christian that claims piety above others is missing the point of Christianity to begin with. And parents were children once too that made the same mistakes they see their kids doing. Heck, some parents probably still have bad habits that they know aren't good that they don't want their kids doing.
And that's the real kicker and distinction when it comes to hypocrisy. It's all about whether one is acknowledging and repenting of their wrong doings. If I as a Christian point out the wrong doings of someone being dishonest, I'm not immediately a hypocrite if I also have done or do something dishonest. I'm only a hypocrite if I try to justify the same wrong doing I'm calling others on as Ok for me to do. That's a hypocrite. However, if I acknowledge my sin and truly repent and work towards not being dishonest, I'm not a hypocrite.
Because people will inevitably do the wrong things they are speak out about and are against. That doesn't make them a hypocrite. It's when when they do those things AND believe it's ok for them to do them that it's hypocrisy. And that's a highly important distinction.
So if a parent is trying to correct bad behavior in a child that they themselves did as a child, or maybe still do to this day, it doesn't necessarily make them a hypocrite. If they still exhibit the behavior, then yes, they're providing a poor example. But that's not hypocrisy. It doesn't invalidate their authority to correct their child's behavior just as it doesn't invalidate someone's responsibility to call out wrong doings when they see them.
It's not judging and it's not hypocrisy to call out wrong doings. And it is so important that we understand this. We cannot be afraid to call out wrong doings because we're afraid of being labeled a judging hypocrite. And we cannot justify or make right wrong doings just because the person pointing it out isn't perfect. Wrong doings need to be called out. They need to be indicated as unacceptable. Yes. It may make people uncomfortable. But that's the point. They shouldn't feel comfortable doing wrong. They should feel convicted.
A wrong doing is wrong. It doesn't matter who else may have done it. Even if the entire world committed the same wrong doing, it doesn't make it right. It doesn't make it good. While it's not a Christian's place to render judgment, it is our place to oppose evil and wickedness. And part of that opposition is calling it out when it's noticed.
Don't let the twisted definitions of judgment and hypocrisy rule our speech. Don't let the accuser allow wickedness to run rampant just because he's good at pointing out your flaws. The sooner we realize this twisting is Satan's weapon, the sooner we can push back, reclaim our courage, and stand up for goodness.