A hypocrite is someone who criticizes others for behavior that they participate in themselves. Sometimes we define it as “saying one thing but doing another.”
For example, you might be a hypocrite if you complain about bad drivers, then forget to use your indicator at the next intersection. In this scenario, you’re complaining about something you do yourself!
Everyone makes mistakes and does things that annoy other people. So, if we complain or gossip about other people, we’re liable to turn into hypocrites ourselves.
Sometimes, it’s best to listen to our parents’ advice and be forgiving, compassionate, and remember to not say anything bad about other people!
1. The Annoying Environmentalist
Scenario: A person claims to be environmentally friendly but drives an SUV.
In this scenario, the person is a hypocrite because they are not living up to their claimed environmental friendly values. They are driving a gas-guzzling vehicle which creates more pollution than smaller cars! So, they are contributing to the very problem they are supposedly trying to solve. A more honest environmentalist would sell their SUV and buy a smaller, more fuel-efficient car.
However, some people also criticize environmentalists for doing things like driving at all, or flying in planes. In reality, a lot of these systemic issues can’t be resolved. Nevertheless, you would expect an environmentalist to be as conscientious about their values as is practicable.
2. The Gossiping Friend
Scenario: A person talks bad about others behind their back, but they would never want others to talk bad about them.
In this scenario, the person is a hypocrite because they are doing the very thing they claim to hate! Here, the gossip is doing something they wouldn’t want others to do to them. They’ve forgotten the golden rule: “do unto others as you would have done to yourself.” If we want others to gossip less about us, maybe we should start by gossiping less about them. Chances are, if you’re gossiping, the people you’re talking to are thinking “wow, I wonder what this person says behind my back.”
3. The Intolerant Liberal
Scenario: A person says they’re “tolerant” but only tolerates people who agree with them.
Many conservatives look at liberals and see plenty of hypocrisy (liberals, too, see it of conservatives – more on that later). One hypocritical thing that we might accuse many liberals of doing is being intolerant of intolerance. For example, they might try to silence anyone who is saying things that might appear intolerant. This, in itself, could be seen as an intolerant act.
On the other hand, conservatives might criticize liberals for engaging in “cancel culture” (trying to cancel or ban people for what they say) while simultaneously banning ‘critical race theory’ from schools. As you can see, it’s pretty hard not to be a hypocrite in politics!
4. The Steak-Eating Animal Lover
Scenario: A person talks about how much they love animals but then orders a steak for dinner.
In this scenario, the person is a hypocrite because they are eating an animal that they supposedly love. A vegan might look at them and think: “What a hypocrite. If they really loved animals, they would be a vegetarian or vegan”. This hypothetical person might respond by saying: “I love animals, but I also love the taste of meat. I’m not going to give up something that I enjoy; I’d rather just not think about it while eating my tasty burger”.
5. Opportunistic Gender Roles
Scenario: A woman is always talking about how men and women should be treated as equals, but always expects men to pay for her meal on dates.
In this scenario, the woman is a hypocrite because she is not practicing what she preaches. She expects men to treat her as an equal in theory, but in practice, she expects them to do things that are traditionally considered ” masculine” such as paying for dinner.
A more feminist approach would be to either pay for her own meal, or Split the bill. This way, she is not taking advantage of traditional gender roles and instead treating men and women as equals.
6. The Liar
Scenario: A person calls someone else a “liar” but then tells their own lies.
Calling others liars is risky business because, according to social scientists, we all tell lies. In fact, it is estimated that the average person tells two to three lies per day. Of course, some people are better at lying than others, and some people lie more often than others. But if you’re quick to call someone else a liar, chances are you’re not being entirely truthful yourself.
7. The Critic
Scenario: A person tells others to “be themselves” but then criticizes them for being different from the norm.
This person is a hypocrite because they are not being consistent with their values. They claim to encourage and embrace authentic self-presentation while criticizing people who try to be authentic. So, if you’re telling others to “be themselves”, make sure you’re not criticizing them when they do just that. Similarly, it might be best to make sure you’re being your authentic self before telling others to do it, too!
8. The Fake Feminist
Scenario: A person says they’re “a feminist” but then mansplains all the time.
Men who claim to be feminists need to follow through on their actions. Otherwise, they’re setting themselves up to be seen as hypocrites. One way they might do this is by mansplaining – which is when a man explains something to a woman in a condescending or patronizing way. So, if you’re a man who considers yourself a feminist, you’re got even more of a responsibility to respect women and not patronize them!
9. The Nepostist
Scenario: A person who advocates for “equality” but then only promotes family members.
A nepotist is someone who favors family members and friends over others. So, in this scenario, the person is a hypocrite because they’re claiming to believe in equal employment opportunities while subtly giving jobs to family members. They say they believe in equality, but their actions show that they only care about people who are close to them. This is unfair to those who are not related to or friends with the person in power.
10. The Angry Driver
Scenario: A person who berates others for not using their indicator, but then fails to do it themselves.
Something seems to happen to people when they get behind the wheel. Their stress levels rise and they become – angry! Even some people who are usually really chilled-out somehow get behind the wheel and become very aggressive and judgmental! And times in which you are being judgmental of others are times when hypocrisy strikes! For example, if you yell at other drivers for not using their indicators, you now had better make sure you use your indicator every single time!
11. The Stereotyper
Scenario: A person who says they don’t believe in labels but then stereotypes characters on television.
This person claims to not believe in labels, but then they go ahead and create labels in their minds when watching the television. They may, for example, yell at the TV screen and talk about gender stereotypes or ethnic stereotypes to their heart’s content, not realizing that they are perpetuating negative ideas. Perhaps it’s best to avoid stereotyping people altogether!
12. The Religious Hypocrite
Scenario: A person advocates for religious freedom but then wants to exclude people whose religions are different from their own.
A good example of this type of hypocrisy is when President Trump, who pushed hard for religious freedom, also turned around and instated a so-called Muslim ban designed to exclude people from majority-Muslim countries from traveling to the United States. Here, it seems he was interested in protecting the freedom of one particular religion – Christianity – while treating other religions with contempt. While many religious people would be very sensitive to protecting the religious freedoms of all religions, others seem only to use the ‘religious freedoms’ argument when it suits themselves.
13. The Selfish Sandra
Scenario: Sandra calls someone else “selfish” but then only does things that benefit themselves.
Here, Sandra lacks self-reflectiveness. As a result, she accuses others of doing something that perhaps she doesn’t realize she is doing herself! We might see a lot of self-centered people doing this because they are so selfish that they don’t even realize that they’re being selfish! In order to avoid being hypocritical, it’s important to take a step back and think about our own actions before we start accusing others of the same thing. Only then can we truly be fair and just.
14. The Dishwasher
Scenario: A person gets upset with their housemates for not doing their dishes, then forgets to do their own dishes.
This person is a classic example of someone who expects others to do what they themselves are not willing to do. In this case, the person is getting upset with their housemates for not doing the dishes, but then forgetting to do their own. This is not only hypocritical, but also unfair and unjust. If you want your housemates to do the dishes, then you should be willing to do them yourself!
15. The Trust Fund Baby
Scenario: A person who says poor people don’t work hard, but was born into privilege.
This person is born into a life of privilege and has never had to work hard for anything. They look down on poor people and say that they don’t work hard, but they have never had to experience true poverty or hardship.
This is a perfect example of hypocrisy because the trust fund baby is judging others for failing to be successful without actually proving their own worth. It would be much more accurate for them to say that they don’t know what it’s like to work hard, instead of making a judgment about something they don’t know much about.
16. The Businessman Cries Poor
Scenario: A businessman argues against raising the minimum wage by a dollar arguing it is bad for business, while he brings in millions of dollars a year.
In this hypothetical, we can imagine that this businessman earns $2,000,000 a year. His five employees earn $50,000 a year. A small payrise to the employees might lower the businessman’s wage a little, but he’s a hypocrite for crying poor when he would still earn significantly more than his employees! Many unionists see this hypocrisy in businesses all the time: the CEO earns millions while insisting the business can’t afford a payrise for its lowly paid employees.
17. The Family Values Politician
Scenario: A politician argues for “family values”, only to be caught having an affair with his intern.
Politicians are often caught out for being hypocrites. On the one hand, they’re busy arguing for “family values” and traditional marriage, while on the other hand they’re having affairs with their interns! This is a perfect example of hypocrisy because the politician is claiming to uphold one set of values, while secretly living a completely different lifestyle. We can think of hypocrites like Bill Clinton in this situation, who was caught having an affair while in office.
18. The Virtue Signaller
Scenario: A person only speaks out about social issues when it’s convenient for them. We call this ‘virtue signaling‘.
This person is a hypocrite because they’re only pretending to care about social issues when it suits them. They’re not really committed to any cause, they’re just looking for a way to make themselves look good. For example, they might only speak out about raising money for a certain chronic illness when it’s in the news, but they’re not actually doing anything to raise money for it. This person is all talk and no action, which makes them a hypocrite.
Hypocrisy is everywhere, and it’s often hard to avoid. We all have our own double standards and expectations for others that we don’t live up to ourselves. It’s important to be aware of our own hypocrisy so that we can avoid being unfair and unjust to others. We should also try to be more understanding of others when they fail to meet our standards because we know that it’s not always easy to live up to them either.
Being judgmental and failing to be self-reflective are the two times when hypocrisy raises up and catches us!
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.