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Ordinary Decent Hypocrites

—from the blog post, Porn, Racism, and When Hypocrisy Isn’t So Bad by Ben Conroy

[I]t’s better… to remain an inconsistent hypocrite than to become a consistent evildoer.


Sometimes this getting better will actually involve becoming more of a hypocrite in the short run – acting in the way that you would if you weren’t a porn user, pretending to be something you’re not in the hope that you will gradually transform into it. As Leah Libresco puts it: “Virtue ethics is the practice of wearing a mask until it sinks into the skin.”

But even if this pursuit never succeeded, by expressing moral disapproval of their own actions they’d still be doing good. The correct response to being told by a 70-year-old chain smoker that taking up the habit is a bad idea is not “shut up, you hypocrite!”

Now there are different things covered by the word “hypocrisy”. Preaching certain values in public and making no attempt whatsoever to live by them in private, gleefully imposing strictures on others with which you have no intention of binding yourself, constitutes great evil indeed.


But the ODHs (Ordinary Decent Hypocrites) that fail to live up to their own standards, that do the very things they hate, that don’t practise what they preach – they don’t deserve our contempt, or our sneering, but our compassion and support.

Because they are us.


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