“But sometimes a hypocrite is nothing more than a person who is in the process of changing.”
It has been a couple of weeks since my fiancé sent me this quote from the book he is reading (Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson), but I cannot seem to shake these words from my mind.
I have been guilty of judging hypocrites too harshly more often than not. When I find that someone’s actions do not align with their words, I am more likely to write them off as insincere than leave room for the possibility that the person they have been in the past has simply not yet met up with the person they strive to be. And I wonder, as I fight my own battle of becoming, just how much of a hypocrite I appear to others.
If you have followed me for any length of time, you’ll know I tend to live by the words of Jesus and Hannah Brencher. I think we all know that Jesus is a huge advocate for redemption, but here’s what Hannah has to say about it:
“Leave space and room in every sentence you write for grace and redemption. The most beautiful thing about characters is their ability to change. Don’t ever steal that from someone by writing a story they can’t grow out of one day.”
When I look around my world today, I don’t see a lot of space for grace and redemption. While the potential for growth remains in the heart of each and every individual, it is as though the world in which we live has become the enemy of grace.
We are a people divided, each declaring the other side to be wrong, never stooping to anything so low as empathy. We cast accusations regardless of the lack of evidence and rally people to our sides because heaven forbid we hold our opinions alone. Now we have to feel justified in our hatred.
I was on Twitter the other day and stumbled across a post about a well known author who had allegedly admitted to an accusation of sexual harassment last year. The person sharing this post was appalled that the author in question was still publishing books and essentially called for a boycott of both this author and the agent who represented him. If that were the end of the post, I probably would have kept scrolling past without much thought, but it didn’t stop there. The person posting went so far as to call out the people who were seeing this post and not sharing it because apparently everyone needed to be outraged that this author was continuing to try to make a living despite his past sins.
According to that post, I am a horrible person for not forwarding this information to everyone I know, despite there being no actual information shared. I have no idea what this author said or did to merit such an accusation, therefore I have no idea whether or not this punishment fits the crime, yet I am supposed to blindly accept that this author is the actual worst and convince all my followers that they should hate him, too. (Interestingly enough, I had read one of this author’s books and didn’t love it, so I guess I’m boycotting the author anyway, but just because he isn’t my cup of tea, not because I’ve been convinced that he is a sexual predator.)
Sadly, this incident is not isolated. We are crucifying people for the sins of the past. Things that were said or done five, ten, twenty, or even thirty years ago are being dug up and judged by the masses to determine the character of the person in question. “This person said or did X. Proceed the public campaign to ruin their lives/careers!”
Don’t misunderstand me. It’s not that I think sin should go unpunished, but I do sometimes wonder if the punishment the public prescribes appropriately fits the crime. I wonder if, after all that time has passed, the punishment has already been paid in some fashion. I wonder if the person being accused today does not also condemn the person of yesteryear.
Mostly I wonder if we have removed the space for redemption in their stories. If, by refusing to accept that a person can change for the better, we are molding them into the very villains we imagine them to be.
I fear we have become a society that would cast stones first and ask questions later. Worse yet, I fear we have become a society that casts stones without ever bothering to investigate the truth. That we blindly accept the cries of the masses to crucify an innocent man, never questioning his lack of guilt. Never regretting the role we played in his downfall.
Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
Even as self-righteous as we’ve become, it takes only a little introspection to realize we don’t qualify for that privilege.
We are all hypocrites, trying to reconcile new beliefs and old habits. We are all on a journey of becoming, often failing to uphold our own standards, but pressing onward regardless of how many times we’ve fallen.
So please, for the love of all that is sacred, drop the stones to make room for grace. If we covet second chances for ourselves, I think we should afford others the same privilege.
Instead of striving against our perceived enemies, let us strive to redeem the world in which we live.