Serial Hypocrisy

Posted on January 11, 2018 by Robert Ringer


The dictionary defines hypocrisy as “a pretense of having virtuous character, moral beliefs, or ethical principles that one does not really possess.”  Perhaps an even better definition of hypocrisy came from 17th century French author François de La Rochefoucauld, who said:  “Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.”

Whether it’s the film and music industries (nauseatingly on display again at the Golden Globe Awards), government (elected officials and bureaucrats alike), or the NFL (players, coaches, and owners), since time immemorial, the human race has been plagued by hypocrisy.

Hollywood hypocrisy, in particular, comes to mind in Matthew 23:27-28:  “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Of course, everyone is hypocritical at one time or another, just as everyone, no matter how honest he may be, tells a little white lie now and then.  But I don’t believe someone who is occasionally hypocritical deserves the tag of hypocrite.  After all, human beings are imperfect.

The Founding Fathers are perhaps the best example of virtuousness getting tripped up by hypocrisy even in the best of us.  That the Founders led overall virtuous lives is clearly documented, yet they were hypocritical on the issue of slavery.  Not only did they fail to address this inhumane practice in either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, many of them were slave owners themselves.

The same could be said of Martin Luther King, Jr., who was instrumental in raising the status and dignity of African-Americans, and did so by preaching nonviolence.  Yet, his virtuousness took several hits both prior to and after his death.

One of the worst of those hits was his well-documented penchant for plagiarism while in college and later in his stirring speeches.  A 1991 article in The Journal of American History, written by no less than the staff at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project, admitted that “plagiarism was a general pattern evident in nearly all of his [King’s] academic writings.”

Likewise, King’s notorious philandering was the height of hypocrisy.  King biographer David Garrow referred to his extramarital affairs as “compulsive sexual athleticism,” and King himself explained his philandering as “a form of anxiety reduction.”  Hmm … I’ll have to chew on that one for a while.

So, yes, even those who have many virtuous accomplishments under their belts have sometimes been guilty of hypocrisy.  But they should not be confused with another group of people who are not mere dabblers in hypocrisy, but serial hypocrites who have mastered the art to perfection and who live lives of hypocrisy day in and day out.

Like me, I’m sure you know many people who fit into this category with remarkable ease —individuals who project public images as paragons of virtue while living lives that are totally devoid of virtue.

A glaring example that comes to mind is when I received an e-mail from a legendary leadership guru and bestselling author (“Steve”) whose works and lectures focus primarily on trust and virtue.  In fact, he’s built his entire career on his carefully crafted image, a career that has earned him considerable wealth.

In his e-mail, Steve, after reminding me that he was a big fan of my books, asked me if I would consider participating in an e-mail campaign to help his soon-to-be-released book get to the top of the Amazon bestseller list.  I smiled, shook my head at how pathetic his request was, then deleted his e-mail.

The reason I ignored Steve’s request was because he had sent me a similar e-mail a few years earlier, and I responded immediately and let him know that I would be more than happy to help him promote his book in any way I could.

Then, on the date he had targeted, I dutifully sent an e-mail blast to my subscribers, encouraging them to buy his book.  I was happy when I subsequently saw that his book had not only made it to the top Amazon’s bestseller list, but had also become a New York Times bestseller.

About a year later, I had a new book coming out, and I started gathering commitments from list owners I knew, asking them if they would recommend my book to their readers.  One of those list owners was Steve.  I sent him an e-mail asking that he send a note to his list similar to the one I had sent to my list for his book.

His silence was deafening.  I followed up a week or so later and asked him if he had received my first e-mail.  Again, no answer.  His lack of response gained him a place in my dead file.

Shortly thereafter, I happened to be talking to a mutual friend of ours, and I mentioned to him my distasteful experience with Steve, whereupon he said to me, “I’m not surprised you didn’t hear back from him, because I’ve had a number of other people over the years tell me that they’ve had similar experiences with him.”

The moral is that the more one talks (or writes) about his own virtuosity, the more reason you have to avoid dealing with him.  Truly virtuous people are hard to come by, as Henry David Thoreau so eloquently pointed out when he said, “There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man.”

What it all boils down to is that there are a lot of shameful hypocrites in this world, and the only thing you can do about it is to go out of your way to avoid dealing with them.  Just as important, don’t clutter your mind trying to figure out why someone is hypocritical.  It’s just one of those great mysteries of life.

Best to use your energy to police your own words and actions, and leave it to Nature to deliver justice.  It always does, even if you and I aren’t aware of it.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

30 responses to “Serial Hypocrisy”

  1. Robby Bonfire says:

    You mention the NFL – players, coaches, and owners, implicating them for their hypocrisy. To your list let me add the P.C. (politically cowardly) National Anthem debauchery-enabling commissioner; along with those disgraceful referees whose mere incompetence has evolved, over the years, into arrogant point spread and game outcome manipulation.

    And if anyone here thinks the Patriots winning the upcoming Super Bowl has not been bought and paid for and is not in the bank, I say you are no further along in this world than an 8th grade civics class, Tom Brady's "legacy" having replaced honestly and integrity as the front burner priority for this league.

    • Robby Bonfire says:

      Change "evolved" to "devolved."

    • Jim Hallett says:

      I have no respect for Roger Goodell a and many of the NFL players. However, it is pretty absurd to think the other 31 owners are interested in handing the SB to the Patriots. They may win it (I hope they do as I root for all the Boston area teams), but it will be because they are the best teaman. No franchise has had the 17 year run they have had, despite the fact many fans resent them. I think sports in general is full of corruption and hypocrisy, but I would not single out the Pats. Their owner, Robert Kraft, is one of the good guys.

  2. John Fallon says:

    How can one avoid/ignore the T-rump, the senate and house leadership? They and most who follow them qualify for this catagory.

  3. Kevin says:

    Hypocrisy presupposes the existence of objective moral standards. Modern secularism has redefined morality so that there are no objective or absolute bases for it – which means that it is almost impossible for someone (following such a model) to actually be a hypocrite. Result!

    • Stefani Woodams says:

      You hit the gold here. I am surrounded by "Leftists" ( can't use "Liberal" anymore" ) . As a Libertarian I am assaulted verbally for my opinion on a daily basis. Not one of these people can see that attacking me for being an uncaring, intolerant and basically stupid person is a direct act of hypocrisy on their part. It is astonishing. But when I understand that they have no moral base – the so called hypocrisy vanishes.

  4. Dia says:

    Wow! What an asinine comment – sorry dude you are a lemming…..go watch ESPN.

  5. theodr78 says:

    More people should know about "Steve"… But I guess he'll get found out by more common folks like me sooner or later.

  6. Paul F Carter says:

    I grew up believing that "my word is my bond & a hand shake was even better"…Well all that went out the window when I became a real estate salesman. I am so grateful for "winning though intimidation & looking out for #1". I have given away so many copies, that I finally purchased hard backs and don't "lend" them. I have seen it, the hypocrisy, so many times and I thank you for helping me recognize it. Although I'm not a patient person, I have found out that sooner or later, these people will get what is coming to them. Many thanks Robert. I don't know where I would be without you.

  7. TheLookOut says:

    No one exhibits hypocrisy with more hubris than the RINOs, and
    99% of the Dirty Dems. The Bushes, Clintons, BHO, McConnell,
    Ryan, and the media, etc.all take top honors for blatant hypocrisy. l They all share the same master the "Deep State Elites Club.

  8. Jean says:

    The best example of serial hypocrites will be the Dirty Dems who wear black to this year's State of the Union. The party pols who applauded Bill Clinton – rapist and serial sexual harasser, Ted Kennedy – murderer and sexual harasser, Jack Kennedy – rapist (if you believe Marilyn Monroe), and Gary Studd – child molester, are allegedly going to show their solidarity with the #MeToo and #TimesUp activists.

    I'd rather see them demand that all of their compadres who used taxpayer money to pay off those whom they sexually harassed return those funds to the government, with interest. And make the names public as well. It might actually make these clowns a little more credible.

  9. Felipe says:

    Hello Robert,
    Your books and have had a profound effect on my worldview beginning back in High School when I first read Winning Through Intimidation and Looking Out for Number 1. This post can be extended to include the hypocritical bureaucratic corporate world with their mantras of "Open Door Policy" (aka "Out the Door Policy") and "Customer First" (aka "Employee Last – If Ever")

    • says:


  10. Tony Lauria says:

    This probably won't pass the censors but is it Steve Siebold? I too had an experience with him.

  11. larajf says:

    All animals are equal. And some are more equal than others.
    I think that sums up the current influx of total hypocrisy.
    Somehow we have to bring back morals and values.

  12. sam239 says:

    Not so sure about MLK's being virtuous in other ways. They say you can judge someone by the fruits of their tree – go to MLK Blvd. or MLK park in any major city. It is high-poverty, crime-ridden, run-down, and if you are a hard-working, productive person, you are a TARGET. If MLK was such a great person (apart from serial adultery and plagiarism) why is the fruit of his work spoiled rotten?

    • Jim Hallett says:

      Much of the blame for the dysfunction of the black community can be laid on LBJ and his horrid "Great Society" program where the community got money by having more kids and no father in the home. Prior to LBJerk, black families were more likely to be 2-parent households than white families. Not even close now! I would not blame all that on MLK, but of course, he was not deserving of a national holiday, but govt. did it as p.c. appeasement. It does not affect me, as I was never a govt. employee so never got a "holiday" out of it. The real tragic legacy however, is LBJ's destruction of the black community and the lack of responsibility on the part of many black "leaders" to try and blame someone else for the mess in the inner cities, etc.

      • Rick G. says:

        Good point there, Jim. And LBJ.hated blacks anyway. He just pretended to be on their side for votes.

  13. Sean Baltz says:

    totally agree Mr. Ringer

  14. Lana says:

    I believe "political correctness" pushed hypocrisy forward. People not being able to be themselves and living from a government script of what is acceptable, sanctioned hypocrisy. People being able to speak and be themselves allows other the opportunity to see the true virtue (or not) of an individual. The term (and practice) of political correctness should be abolished. It gives us a fighting chance to determine who we want to deal with in our lives.

  15. Gordon says:

    One of the really tough things about hypocrisy is how easy it is to see in others, and how hard to recognize in ourselves. It seems to me that there is no group, party, denomination, or other affiliation that has a corner on hypocrisy. Rather it is something that each of us needs to carefully search for and eradicate in our own lives, while being somewhat tolerant of the hypocrisy we perceive in others. I'm not saying we should totally overlook it, but as Robert did with the author he mentioned, just delete the e-mail and move ahead.

  16. Paul Herring says:

    Good post as they pretty much all are, Robert. But am I missing something here? Why did you spell "hypocrisy" as "hypocracy" in one place (the title) and then define it spelt correctly?

  17. Jurgy says:

    the worst kind of hypocrite …people who wear their Christianity on their sleeve, then do un-Christian like things … I repeatedly witness this behavior and it is disgusting …

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