Contributor Paul Kincaid puts on his Jeff Foxworthy persona to tackle the subject of hypocrisy. (Photo of Kincaid provided; photo of Foxworthy from Jefffoxworthy.com)

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OPINION |

I can’t help it.  Every time I start to write about hypocrisy, I think about comedian Jeff Foxworthy.

I find myself wondering how he would deliver the commentary with his mustache, twinkling eyes, mischievous smile, country twang, and unique “You might be a Redneck” style. 

So, with appreciation for, and apologies to, Mr. Foxworthy, here’s how I imagine that routine might go……

I have a buddy – I’ll call him “Reed” because, well, that’s his name. Recently, Reed decided to become a vegetarian. He’s not satisfied living his new lifestyle. He preaches vegetarian to us at church socials, the barbershop, the Elks Lodge, PTA meetings, everywhere.

The other day, I was walking into my favorite hamburger joint for lunch. There in the drive-through was Reed getting his order. “Here’s your double-cheeseburger, fries and large drink, sir,” the window server said as she handed him the gigantic sack and 30-ounze cup.

I waited for Reed to drive by me. He just kept his window rolled down and as he passed, he sheepishly said, “Just call me a hypocrite” and then drove off. I gave him the double thumbs up, which means, “Your wish is my command — happy to help.”

I was fairly sure I knew what a hypocrite was, but I have a personal policy of looking up any word with three or more syllables. According to the dictionary, a hyp-o-crite is “a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.” 

With all due respect to Merriam and Webster, I have always thought of hypocrites as liars who sooner or later — usually sooner — would do something to prove they were lying.

Oh, sure, people can change their minds. But when that happens, they apologize, say they were wrong, say they have learned new information, and say that they now believe something different. When was the last time you heard that?

I think there’re two groups of people who really struggle with hypocrisy: parents and politicians.

Parents really have it rough. Kids can smell a hypocrite 100 yards away upwind on a hog farm in July. I think it goes back to what Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you are saying.” (See, I did remember something out of my American Literature class!) If we ever could before, us parents can no longer get away with saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy is famous for his “you might be a Redneck” routine. (Photo: Jefffoxworthy.com)

For politicians, hypocrisy seems almost like a communicable disease. They get infected as candidates. If they lose, it remains dormant until the next election cycle. If they win, it becomes a full-blown condition. Funny thing — even with all the TV and radio interviews, cell phone videos, emails and text messages, a case of hypocrisy never seems to be terminal for most politicians.

I don’t know about you, but as hard as I try, sometimes I can’t help but be a hypocrite. I am not proud of it, but I’ll admit. At this point, some of you are probably wondering how you can tell if you, too, are a hypocrite. Well, let me see if this helps……

You might be a hypocrite if …

If you teach your children to tell the truth, but they hear you tell a cockamamie story to Great Aunt Mildred about why you can’t go to her house for Thanksgiving — you might be a hypocrite.

If you brag that you always vote based on the individual candidates, but then you vote straight party ticket every election — you might be a hypocrite.

If you’re a supervisor and say your employees come first, but then pay them as little as possible, provide the minimum benefits, and are disrespectful to them — you might be a hypocrite.

If you tell your kids to respect authority, but then you scream at the umpires and coaches for seven innings at your 10-year-old slow-pitch softball game — you might be a hypocrite.

If you speak passionately about the importance of personal freedom, but only if you agree with the choices — you might be a hypocrite.

If you own the company and insist you’re for equal rights for women, but refuse to provide equal pay for equal work — you might be a hypocrite.

If you curse other drivers who are swerving because they’re texting, but then you text while driving yourself — you might be a hypocrite.

Claiming credit for things you voted against? Well, you might be a hypocrite

If you are a legislator and vote against an infrastructure bill or some other legislation based “on principle,” but then claim credit for the benefits those bills provide when they pass — you might be a hypocrite.

If you talk about how much reading the book “Catcher in the Rye” meant to you as a teenager and how inspired you were by works by Shakespeare, but are now are standing idly by while those same books are being banned from your local library and school — you might be a hypocrite.

If you’re a farmer who gripes about the federal support for those less fortunate, but gladly accepts federal farm subsidies — you might be a hypocrite.

If you insist that there’s not a racist bone in your body, but you constantly use the N-word and other slurs — you might be a hypocrite.

If you say you love America, but you express your hatred for the 50 percent of Americans who disagree with you — you might be a hypocrite.

If you make big deal about how you’re going to boycott a product, business or service based on your strong moral principles, but then you are caught using what you are boycotting — you might be a hypocrite.

If you like to participate in juicy gossip about others, but get angry when people gossip about you — you might be a hypocrite.

If you complain that apathy and inaction are major problems in the country today, but then fail to vote, serve on a jury, or correct statements you know are untrue — you might be a hypocrite. 

I think the world might be a better place if we all worked at reducing hypocrisy.  How about you?

Paul Kincaid

Paul Kincaid, an Independent, lives in Springfield. He spent 39 years in higher education public relations and governmental relations, and served as Chief of Staff to three University Presidents. The final 28 years were at Missouri State University. After retiring from Missouri State in 2014, he served eight years as Executive Director of Jobs for America’s Graduates-Missouri. He owns and operates his consulting company, Kincaid Communications, LLC. Email: Paul.K.Kincaid@gmail.com More by Paul Kincaid