When “god talk” is bouncing around in your head–words like “Jesus”, or “Holy Spirit” or “humility” or “the Bible”– it is really intoxicating! I know, been there, done that. It provides one the exquisite delight of feeling pious and righteous, knowing that one is “saved” and, very importantly, knowing that so many others are not. This cognitive experience allows one to live in a narrowly defined, safe world of “like minded souls” who are subject to the same cultural bondage, all of which have signed an unconscious bond to never question the premises of their mindset that would bring the “light of day” to their darkness and expose them to their hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is subtle. Once again, been there and done that and technically still am! Hypocrisy is being trapped in performance art, a performance which is carefully scripted by the “song and dance” of one’s spiritual tradition which is very comforting as long as one does not allow that cursed “light of the day”, aka “the Holy Spirit” to intervene and show them that their faith was only a perfunctory performance in compliance with those lofty notions cavorting about in their head. What is missing is the wisdom of the Apostle Paul who noted that the Spirit of God, if allowed to, will cut into the depths of the heart and there serve as, “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” But if that dangerous and damning insight is permitted, one would have to recognize the sham of his faith which would then allow the “performance art” of faith to dissolve into meaningful expression. But this is very painful as it requires the disillusionment, the anguishing experience of realizing that one has not been as pious as he imagined himself to be and then recognize and experience the grace of God which covers even that duplicity! But if you “know” you are humble, the thought itself will deter you from allowing the experience of humility to wash over you. T. S. Eliot realized this when he noted, “The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility. And humility is endless.” Eliot recognized what I like to call the experience of “humility-ization” being operable in one’s life, as “humility” is nothing that can be acquired. If you think you have “acquired” it…as I once thought I had…you are up to your halo in hypocrisy!
We are all “actors on the stage of life, who with his fear have been put beside his part” and finding the courage to recognize this can provide an opportunity for spiritual growth. It requires, however, the relinquishment of the comfort zone provided by the cerebral “letter of the law” and a willingness to engage a heart which until this point has been dormant, “bronzed o’er so that it is proof and bulwark against sense.” Shakespeare knew that a heart which has been customized, or enculturated, into mere rote performance is one that is a rigid defense network against “sense” or feeling. In the same scene, he implored his mother to listen to him with a heart “made of penetrable stuff”.
Often persons of faith do not have hearts made of “penetrable stuff.” In my case I was “christianized”, or indoctrinated with Christian teachings so that there was no room left for an open heart to make the dogma of the Christian teachings meaningful in my life, to allow them to filter down from my head into my heart. In a sense, there was no heart as there can be no real heart until the circumstances of life have intervened and made in vulnerable, i.e. “full of penetrable stuff.” Now, certainly I have always had a heart but a “heart” is an infinite dimension of our human experience…if we allow it to be. It is so easy and convenient to allow it to ossify with the dogma that our tribe has provided us which leaves us as nothing more than the walking dead. In fact, in terms of developmental psychology, our “heart” must ossify for us to join the structure of the human race. But then in time to come there are opportunities to allow this ossification to break down under the influence of what my spiritual tradition calls the “Spirit of God.” But this is painful and disillusioning and so we usually decline to listen to that “still small voice” that is always whispering to us and therefore remain in the comfortable darkness of dogma. As W. H. Auden put it, “And Truth met him, and held out her hand. But he clung in panic to his tall beliefs and shrank away like an ill-treated child.”
In conclusion, you have just read something from the heart of an admitted hypocrite. For, as long as we are human, we will be an “actor” to some degree and what makes hypocrisy such a problem is merely the inability/unwillingness to acknowledge it. Self-reflection, that God-given capacity in our fore-brain is painful when our ego-driven identity is predicated upon disallowing it. If you want to see an example, pay attention to American politics right now.