I believe hypocrisy can be a precious gift.
It’s not ideal to say and teach one thing, and do another. But far worse than that is abandoning principle simply because we have not fully lived it ourselves.
There’s a lot of very popular rhetoric that runs along the lines of “you do what’s best for you, everyone does what’s best for them, and there are no one-size-fits-all ideals.”
While this may be true for the lactose intolerant and hypoglycemic, moral principles are not food. They are stars, meant to be reached for, stretched for, yearned for, because they feed our souls, build our lives into better things, and stave off degeneration and depravity.
One of the things I most appreciate about my (divorced) parents: They so thoroughly taught me about the sanctity of marriage.
They never backed down from that, they never shrugged or added caveats or let their own divorce shame them out of teaching me, and wanting for me, a whole and unending marriage.
They never abandoned the reality, importance, and grandeur of this institution, even as divorcees.
“Don’t do this,” they both told me. “Get married and stay together.”
There are some who would claim it’s hypocritical to tell your child to reverence marriage, to fight for it and make it work when they themselves are divorced. Maybe it is, but if it is, it is a gift for which I am grateful. If anything, having failed at an ideal or value can give us our own particular insight to it, if we don’t throw in the towel and insist that it wasn’t worth aspiring to in the first place. Success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed.
If perfect embodiment of a principle was a prerequisite to teach said principle, then we’re all unqualified to speak on anything of worth. If we don’t teach our children to strive for patience, simply because we are not patient, we’re restricting their access to something that will give them a happier life.
Should we practice what we preach? Absolutely. But failing that, we should preach what we ourselves aspire to.
A world without striving for goodness is a dark place indeed. Let’s not call darkness light simply because we’ve inadvertently, or even deliberately, poured water onto our candle. Dry off, find a match, and try again. And even while you’re fumbling in the dark, having snuffed the fire, you have the right, perhaps even a moral obligation, to tell everyone you know how wonderful and real candlelight is.