We all seem deeply concerned about other people’s moral behavior—while making excuses for our own.
Most of us think we’re more moral and self-aware than most other people. But how can the majority be better than the majority?
Truth is, most of us are lying to ourselves.
Cartoons with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other have human nature right: we’re a mixed bag—there’s a constant civil war going on inside us.
In The Character Gap, Christian B. Miller says virtuous behavior is appropriate to the time and place, is done for the right reason, has positive outcomes—and importantly—represents a stable and consistent pattern over time and situations.
The same consistency is true for vice—we aren’t defined by one act. But while vice is imperfect by definition, virtue is sullied by anything that falls short of its lofty ideals.
But if virtue isn’t virtue unless it’s perfect, then why even try?
The Stoic sage is mythical. And while Christians claim that Jesus never sinned, no one could ever replicate that.
Critics of Stoicism point out that you can drown in six feet or six inches of water, so if perfection is the ideal then who cares how close you are to the surface?
One response is that pursuing goodness is inherently worth it. Christianity takes it one step farther: we can’t bridge the gap, so God will.
But what about those of us who aren’t Christian?
Here’s my game plan:
To avoid hypocrisy, I must try to judge myself more and others less. When I have to point out someone’s behavior, I must try to describe the behavior and the consequences objectively while avoiding value judgments. And I must try to be gracious toward others—forgive their shortcomings and avoid grudges.