The origin of hypocrisy in human nature

This world is filled with hypocrisy. All problems, starting with marital breakups, emanate from hypocrisy. The first display of hypocrisy was revealed at the Garden of Eden after the first couple had eaten a forbidden tree. It could be safe to suggest that all problems of humanity are a result of hypocrisy, taken as valuable when the opposite is true. Let us first analyze the following passage of Scripture to determine how hypocrisy mechanism works:

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid’” (Genesis 3:7-10) (NIV).

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked” The meaning of nakedness, according to an American/English dictionary, is not wearing clothes; without clothing on the genitals or female nipples. Apparently, their idea of covering nakedness was to sew leaves together and make coverings for themselves. Covering nakedness sounds quite acceptable in our modern understanding of human dignity. But, when considering that the couple was first—against who were they covering their nakedness?

The truth is that what is perceived physically, is different from what is viewed spiritually. In other words, the physical eyes of the first couple were opened to see their nakedness. The feeling of shame is induced by nakedness—hence the couple felt ashamed of viewing their uncovered private parts. This describes the nature of humanity, as currently stands. That which causes someone to feel ashamed needs to be covered.

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If you commit a shameful act as adultery with another man’s wife, the only logical thing is to cover it up. This would be the secret between you and the woman with whom you committed adultery. This cover-up could be achieved by pretending to be better than your wife, in terms of chastity. Most divorce cases are punctuated by wives or husbands who, actually, accuse their spouses of infidelity that they, themselves, committed.

In some cases, the other spouse may not even suspect or prove the infidelity. Except being surprised by the behavior of the person they would have all along committed themselves to love. This may be the only answer to common divorce phenomena that most marriage counselors struggle to understand. The offending spouse would be doing the only obvious solution, as initiated by the first couple—covering up the nakedness of adultery.

The truth of the matter is that the offending spouse would not want to be classified as an adulterer. By vilifying one’s spouse, the idea is to cover up the nakedness induced by the sin of adultery. In other words, if putting on dirty clothes, one feels comfortable, only when the other person wears dirtier clothes. One feels exposed, as long as the other partner takes the limelight of wearing cleaner clothes. Therefore, smearing the other person is the natural way of covering up the nakedness.

The Zimbabwean nation has been governed shamefully since independence in 1980. Those in power know very well that they have messed up, all those years. However, the idea of confessing that they have messed up, since 1980, is like exposing themselves to nakedness. There has to be a reason why things have gone bad, without blaming the rulers’ own conduct. Anyone putting some blame on their conduct is automatically labeled as an enemy.

It is not true that those in government want to perpetuate blatant corruption and improper governance, for instance. Those people desire to do the right things which, unfortunately, starts with exposing their own nakedness. They would rather conjure up ideas, suggesting to easily forget the past, by simply starting on a new slate. But a new slate is possible, only after disposing of their past misdeeds.

While the shameful person may not like the past wicked things, he/she keeps them intact by covering them up. This is like using a vessel, previously containing poison, as a new container for food. There would be the need to thoroughly clean the container, before using it for good food. Otherwise, the entire food becomes contaminated with poison. Let alone pretending that the container would not be contaminated, when the opposite would be true.

The problems in Zimbabwe are a result of hypocrisy. When the governing authorities are reminded of their past sinful acts, they would treat those exposing them as enemies. Before realizing it, they continue to commit similar, or even worse crimes, through defending their past shameful conduct. This is why an offending spouse seeks to embarrass his/her innocent spouse. The naïve populace often buys into that façade.

Righteousness is not possible without giving up causes of unrighteousness. There is no other shame surpassing what happened at the cross of Calvary. All shame was taken over by Jesus so that the shamefulness of humanity is replaced by the original righteousness of humanity. This is the only stable datum, as far as issues of redemption and salvation are concerned.

There are those insisting that it is unnecessary to embarrass oneself by confessing to other sinners. That sounds plausible, as all humans have sinned, anyway (Romans 3:23). But that reasoning justifies keeping one’s sins intact. Jesus did not think about the conduct, or opinions of other humans when bearing that cross. The exposure to shame, in the name of Jesus, is the only required technique for cleansing our sinful nature. Bear in mind that anything that is shameful is done under the cover of darkness. Adam and Eve went into hiding, after sinning.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him, there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:5-10) (NIV).

In short, those things that make us feel ashamed, in the eyes of the public, need exposure. Sin remains intact, as long as feeling ashamed to expose such abominable things in public. The exposure of sin is what is most important, in the meaning of believing in Jesus. One cannot believe in Jesus when ashamed of the cross. It is important to bear in mind that humans carry the first couple’s nakedness.

Hypocrisy is, therefore, the idea of covering up the sins of the past, including the present ones. Humans want to be seen as good, rather than being viewed as sinners. The quarrelsome couple may want to project their marriage as the best in this world. Such couples may, actually, be used as models, by the naïve populace, viewing what is outside, instead of the true status, conditioning that marriage.

It is embarrassing to confess one’s sins in public, yet confessing those sins in public is the only way through. Hypocrisy implies pretending to be what one would be not. Of course, the Bible states that we should love our brothers. But why should one pretend to love when the truth is the opposite? This does not mean that one should, therefore, take comfort in hating people.

The hidden solution lies in confronting what is wrong. If something is unlikable about a brother, for whatever reason, why should one pretend to tolerate it? The most important thing to be borne in mind is that whatever would be unlikeable, would be different from the person committing what is disliked. For instance, if a brother is unable to take regular baths, causing discomfiture, could there be anything wrong with communicating one’s feelings to him?

This does not mean failure to be sensitive to that brother’s feelings, as insensitivity may worsen his/her condition. This can be best handled when first putting oneself in his shoes. This takes much listening, to get more information from the person with unacceptable behavior. One begins to understand the causes of observed failures to bath regularly, for instance. Such kind of listening requires the listener to first suspend his/her own viewpoint.

There is no way a person can help another person when projecting being better than the person being helped.  One becomes the best communicator when first able to listen and acknowledge, the other person—without suggesting own opinions. This type of empathetic listening enables the person with a problem, actually, to come to terms with whatever would have been problematic, without interference. Evaluating for the other person is unnecessary, except giving that person the unconditional love.

It is possible for the unlovable person to easily appreciate whatever would be unlovable about him/her, as long as listened to, empathetically. That aspect of listening enables the other person to empty burdens to someone who would be willing to pay attention to his/her case. Who in this world doesn’t want to be listened to? The only way any person can carry other people’s burdens is by a willingness to listen to their problems. This is applicable when applying that empathetic principle, as advised to the Galatians by the apostle Paul.

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.  If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.  Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.  Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor” (Galatians 6:1-6) (NIV).

The most important thing to take note of is that we are all sinners. Therefore, there is no need to compare oneself with others. That is why listening is crucial in handling each other’s problems. The law of Christ that Paul is referring to, includes bearing each other’s burdens, which embraces praying for those that persecute you.

Jesus, whose conduct was viewed as different from the application of the Law of Moses, is the fulfillment of the Law, focusing on dos and don’ts. The aspect of bearing other people’s burdens means empathizing with them, so as to be willing to die for them. This is why spiritual law leaves no room for condemning other people. Anything that gives a feeling of dignity, should be regarded as suspect. Our physical bodies carry what is shameful.

The only way to remove shamefulness is by exposing shamefulness, by confessing what causes that shamefulness. Hypocrisy is associated with the feeling of comfort, induced by covering what is shameful. One of the pivotal teachings of Jesus is that one should rejoice, only when insulted. When seeking to be liked by other people, one walks contrary to Jesus who was shamefully treated on the cross.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for, in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12) (NIV).

Just before His crucifixion and ascension to heaven, Jesus left an unenviable promise to His disciples. Such promise is the opposite of what is often projected by the advocates of a gospel of prosperity and good living on earth. That promise serves to remove all hypocrisy. Thereby, cleansing one to become what awaits those who will be included in the coming Kingdom of God.

“But a time is coming and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:32-33) (NIV).

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.

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