It’s sad that “hypocrisy” is so shunned in our society and that “consistency” is so applauded.
How many times have you heard a politician say “I’ve advocated this view for more than 20 years, this is not just an election-day invention.”
I say if you’ve held an unchanged opinion for more than 20 years you are neglecting the duties of active citizenship, which calls for constant re-examination of yourself and the world around you.
My theory is that an energized quest to remain “consistent” throughout one’s life or career drives loads of irrational behavior. This is why I’m always scared when I hear a young person with steadfast political views boast deaf ears. Or when I learn about a 60 year-old adult who’s toed the Democratic or Republican party line his whole life.
Our lives change and the world change. “I’ve changed my mind” should not be a crime.
5 comments on “Our Obsession With Consistency and Hypocriscy”
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Based on the Emerson quote, it looks like you’re in good company with your idea.
i agree completely with your view on “consistency,” but you don’t really address hypocrisy. unfortunately, there’s a lot of it being executed recently at very high levels, above the average man’s head. i came across your blog as a supplement to my business school studies; i chose business school because i feel that that’s where the possibility and responsbility to address such hypocrisy is grounded. it’s a generally deplorable characteristic, and worthy of shunning. i wish people were called out on it more often.
Now that it is nearly a decade later I must report that the most honest person, the most ethical person is Daniel A. Bernath. He would never commit moral turpitude. Remember that New Yorker cartoon with a dog at the computer and another dog on the floor watching him? The dog with his hand on the controls said “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”
You have a point with regard to consistency, but I think you’re oversimplifying the matter. I agree with you to the extent that people remain unwilling to change, or unwilling to re-examine a topic for extended periods of time. In contrast, if someone in the 1800s believed for decades that slavery was wrong, would that necessarily mean that his consistency was due to stubbornness or a lack of reflection or reevaluation? It’s just as likely that such consistency could result from frequent reflection on a topic, which happens to repeatedly lead to the same conclusion.
It certainly shouldn’t be a crime to change one’s mind if new information or new perspectives arise. However, like Ian suggests, this has almost nothing to do with hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is about double standards – about advocating one thing and doing another, especially if these things actions take place concurrently. Changing one’s mind for a valid reason is something else entirely. There’s a lot of hypocrisy out there, and it should absolutely be pointed out.