Resolving Your Hypocrisy

Self love is more cunning than the most cunning man in the world.  … Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.    La Rochefoucauld.

Humans are hypocrites.  That is, we present ourselves and our groups as pursuing high motives, when more often low motives better explain our behavior.   We say we invade nations to help them build democracy, rather than for revenge or security.  We say we marry to help our partner, rather than to gain sex or security.  We say we choose our profession to help others, and not for prestige or income.  And so on.

Comedians live by ridiculing such hypocrisy, but "cynics" who complain without such wit and style are despised.  In contrast, we are attracted to the innocent who naively believe our hypocrisies.

Noticing the hypocrisy in others usually makes us feel morally superior.  After all, we are know we are not hypocrites; "I can look inside myself and and see my sincerity."  But eventually experience and intelligence force some of us to face the likelihood that we are no different.   At this point we can resolve our hypocrisy two ways: we can start really living up to our high ideals, or we can admit we don’t care as much as we thought about those ideals .   

Most people try harder to live up to their ideals.  They usually think they succeed, but mostly they just add on a few more layers of self-deception, and find themselves too busy to ponder the issue. "Sure hypocrites give to charities that don’t really help much, but my charity really does help; I read an article that says so.  Sorry; gotta go."   

We want to think well of ourselves, and this gives us a limited ability to make ourselves to want the things we think we should want.  And the young are more naturally innocent, with a stronger ability to remake their wants, at least toward ideals others would applaud.  But this effect fades with time, and we overestimate both how much we can change our wants, and how much we want to.

One of our ideals is to be honest with ourselves.   Is this honesty ideal a substitute or a complement for other ideals?   On the one hand, honesty should help us to to use resources more effectively to actually achieve other ideals, versus the appearance of achieving them.  On the other hand, I cannot reasonably expect anyone willing to try to live up to this ideal of honesty to have much will power left over to live up to other ideals.   

I expect people who are actually more honest will tend to have lower expectations about achieving ideal ends, though they may (or may not) actually achieve such ideals more.

Added:  Our conscious minds seem like a public relations department (PRD) of our minds.  A corporate PRD tries to find a coherent story to make it look like corporate actions came from high motives.  The PRD tries to have this high minded story recorded in official histories, legal testimony, and accounting records.  Corporate PRDs have a limited ability to influence corporate policy; "Boss, doing that will make us look real bad."   But corporate profits more fundamentally drive behavior. 

Similarly, our conscious minds record and tell high-minded stories about our actions.  When image is important enough, we can make real sacrifices to ensure our actions fit closely with our conscious self-image.  But we usually need only minor sacrifices, my guess is that a cost-minimizing PRD forced to be more honest will rely more on admitting to low motives, and less on switching from low to high motives.

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