Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hypocrisy and Expectations

I often write in this blog about ways I try to be a better person. I probably make myself out to be some kind of saint from the looks of the comments and feedback I'm getting from you. But the fact is, I fall short of being the generous, open-minded, patient, perfect mother and wife you might think I am from reading my blog.

I think you'd all agree that you, too, believe in being kind-hearted, tolerant, caring, and a walking repository of the values and traits we want our kids to have. But do you always live what you preach? Do you always walk the talk? Of course not. Does that make us all hypocrites?

I knew a guy who was in a position of power and influence. What he said affected the way people made their decisions and lived their lives. To my great disappointment, one day he showed himself to be a weak, spiteful, selfish, and childish character - the direct opposite of the facade he'd been putting on for the people who looked up to him. I wrote him off as a huge hypocrite and felt nothing but contempt and disappointment toward him.

Then I asked myself why I was so disappointed. Was it because I actually expected him to be perfect? Did I really believe he was the pillar of virtues he preached to others? Who was I kidding?

I think when it comes to living the virtues we aspire to in ourselves, we're all hypocrites to a certain extent. Actually, "hypocrite" is the wrong word. I think what we do is set up expectations of ourselves and others. I'd like to be a patient, kind-hearted, forgiving, generous person. I talk about these virtues to my kids and I talk about them in my blog. I try to live them, but I often fail. But then I try the next time. And the next time. I try because I have expectations that I can be the person I want to be.

I think we all have an idea of the kind of person we want to be and we succeed and fail in turns. When we fail to practice what we preach, we're not necessarily being hypocrites. We're falling short of the expectations we've set for ourselves. It's when we start lowering those expectations or stop having expectations altogether that we should start worrying.


Katie said...

I don't think that having an expectation of how to behave is the right way to think about life - as the saying goes "the road to hell is paved with good intentions!" which I agree is a bit extreme but points out that we need to actively try our best always and not think " oh i couldn't be that good/helpful/kind that time but thats ok there's always next time" - thats a bit of a cop out in my mind - I'm not saying anyone is able to live their life like a saint but we should always try and do the best we can without the back up 'make myself feel better about being mean'plan!

Shin said...


That's what I meant to say with my blog post - that we should always try our best to behave in a way we can be proud of - i.e., meet our expectations of ourselves and others.

But I also think we should resist condemning ourselves or others for not always achieving their best, since "best" is in the eye of the beholder.

If I held in contempt everyone around me who I thought was NOT doing their best, I'd have very few friends and a sad, sad view of people.

Christine Raza said...

I love that you wrote this. This is the kind of thing a friend might say to you if you are feeling down about yourself or that you could be a better mother, person, friend, etc. It is nice to hear it unsolicited.

We don't expect perfection from our kids, or the people around us. Why is it so hard to accept our own imperfections?

This is a great reminder to me that motherhood, in particular, is a really tough job, and as much as we try to be perfect for our kids, we will always make mistakes. I especially appreciate it because I see you as a wonderful mother and it's always nice to see the human side of those we admire.

Shin said...


I don't think I know anyone who is harder on themselves than working mothers. I can't tell you how many of my friends who are working mothers feel like failures because they think they can't succeed at any of their roles: mother, boss, wife, sister, daughter, friend. They feel like they're trying to be all of those things at once and failing at all of them.

I find it amazing what some of my girlfriends juggle in day. I may incur the wrath of my male readers here, but I have to say that what women handle these days is beyond what the typical man is capable of.

I'm a stay-at-home mom and I happen to have cancer. I feel like I'm on holiday compared to most of my girlfriends.

Paula (MN) said...

I wish I didn't have to work. I consider myself lucky that I get to be home one extra day a week though. We sacrificed a lot of things for me to be home with the kids that extra day, but you cannot put money on time. I just went back to work after maternity leave. We lost my mom a week later. I think it was a blessing I got that leave to spend more time with her...I did feel like that leave was vacation too Shin. I must say you have a beautiful family. My daughter is Toby's age.

Shin said...

Paula (MN),

I think it's great that you've found a way to get that extra day with your kids and that you had your maternity leave time to spend with your mother.

I imagine that when you're a toothless granny looking back at your life, it'll be the extra time you spent with your family that you'll remember and not the extra money that you made.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shin,
Am very touched by your love for your family and life.

Read this post on Expectations and I agree with what you've shared:
"But I also think we should resist condemning ourselves or others for not always achieving their best, since "best" is in the eye of the beholder."

Missing the mark in our own eyes or others is almost an instant lead to self-condemnation. But I love what you've shared: It is worse not to have any expectation at all.

Have prayed for you & your family. (Yes, I am a believer in Jesus. ;))

Am struck by your unselfish and unreserved sharing of your life through your struggles, your triumphs and your love. I believe your sharings are going out to encourage & inspire others to move on courageously in their lives.

Keep sharing, Shin.


Ronnie Ng said...

hhmm.. each of us have some sort of "ethics uniform" which upon wearing it, we become a different person... coz that costume represents something which is larger than ourselves, something overarching.. think nurses, flight attendants, etc... Jackie Chan's Tuxedo... even superheroes like Superman, Spiderman... with that "costume" we have some kind of character/ego, even strength, which we may not summon through our normal self alone...

likewise the gentleman whom you described had been wearing the uniform all those while, until you found him naked....

John said...

Hi Shin.

I have just watched the documentary about you on TV. My wife died of cancer more than 10 years ago, and I can relate to your story very well. Cheer up and have quality time with your kids. You might like to try the miracle service at the Lighthouse Church. Please let me know if you would like to have more details.

God Bless!