It’s really important to distinguish between inconsistency and hypocrisy. We’re all inconsistent (in my case quite often): we hold certain values but don’t live up to them all the time; we want always to act in certain ways but manage to act in those ways only occasionally. That’s the universal human experience.

Hypocrisy is something different. Hypocrisy is deceptive: the hypocrite pretends to certain virtues that he doesn’t hold and doesn’t even really want to hold.

When you see somebody being inconsistent and you accuse him of hypocrisy, that is, first of all, a heavy accusation. But second, you’re claiming to be able to read his heart and mind. You’re claiming that you have looked within and seen the attempt to deceive. Do you really want to claim such powers for yourself?

In most cases you should be content with the accusation of inconsistency. And in my view you shouldn’t even make that accusation without the awareness that you yourself are almost certainly at least as inconsistent as the person you are accusing.

Alan Jacobs @ayjay