Essay Writing Topics for High School and College Students
The curse of hypocrisy
Hypocrisy is a vice which it is hard to recognise in ourselves. The thief and the adulterer know of their sins, but the hypocrite is usually unaware of his dissimulation. He can see the shortcoming in others but not in himself. For every self-confessed hypocrite there are thousands who think and act hypocritically in complete ignorance of the fact.
An honest searching of our hearts and minds to discover and root out our own hypocrisies would benefit us all. Hypocrisy must be looked for in its many different guises. We are hypocritical when we profess moral standards which we do not observe. Some, people say honestly that they find the Islamic way of life, for example, too difficult for them. But thousands of others make no real effort to carry out the precepts to which they give lip-service.
Another form of hypocrisy is ''window-dressing.'' Naturally we all like to make the most of ourselves and appear at our best before the world. In a shop window the attractive display is frequently made up of dummies, of bright, gaily-coloured boxes from which the contents have been removed. Are we really presenting our talents in their most favourable light, or merely trying to disguise our emptiness?
Amore active form of hypocrisy is duplicity or double-dealing, in which one's true opinions are hidden with the object of misleading. Duplicity enters into our personal lives. Our personal relationships with family and friends are hypocritical if they are not based on honest opinion and straight-forward beliefs.
The devout followers of any religion are vulnerable to the temptation of cant which is the hypocritical pretension of goodness. They begin by seeing and admiring a certain way of life. They think how fine it would be to live up to such exacting standards. Human weakness being what it is they soon convince themselves that they are in fact living up to these ideals. Such easily won virtue collapses at the first real temptation. Everyone submits to cant at some time or other some people more readily than others.
The ugly actions known as humbug are another form of hypocrisy. They are actions which are intended to deceive. Humbug is a form of moral trickery. It is seldom indulged in unknowingly and is less of a trap for the unwary.
At the intellectual level, sophistry is a form of dishonest reasoning. Nearly all sophists do not see the flimsy base on which their argument rests or the false conclusions drawn from the evidence. Illogical steps creep into their reasoning, usually to bolster up a decision made in advance. Sophistry is common in public life, yet most sophists are genuinely shocked when their political opponents call them hypocrites.
Only a rare man of exceptional talent can genuinely argue any case without resort to sophistry if he is emotionally interested in the outcome.
Quackery is another form of hypocrisy which is the profession of abilities or aptitudes one does not possess. It is usually applied to medicine, but exists in all trades and professions. Quacks bluff their way precariously through life, never fully mastering their calling, or doing and job properly. To avoid being a hypocrite is a most difficult task. It needs great courage and considerable intelligence.
Courage is needed because often it is difficult to express disagreement. It is not easy to refuse to do things requested by employer or friend because they conflict with a principle. Most of us in such situations try to muddle along, falling between two stools. Principles are compromised and what we were asked is done badly.
We must learn to summon up our courage and face the consequences. Men of character who can do this are not met everyday. Intelligence is required to find the flaws in our own sophistical arguments so that the views we maintain are well founded.
Intelligence of another kind is essential to resolve the contradictions in our opinions. Thousands of people who believe in Islamic principle are in favour of flogging dangerous criminals. Most of them have never stopped to think whether there might be some contradiction.
We should not keep our attitudes to life in separate compartments. What we believe as members of Islamic society should have its effect on what we advocate in politics or on our business morality.
What can we do to make ourselves less hypocritical? Our moral beliefs are the result of five main factors. First, our early training at home sets the pattern. Then our formal education in childhood and youth establishes basic attitudes. Thirdly, there is the influence of the people around us. Fourthly, we modify these factors of our environment by the reading that we do. And fifthly, the depth and clarity of our thought on questions of behaviour add the final influence.
What we must do to improve follows from this analysis. We must become more aware of our actions, trying to regard them in the same detached way that we look at the actions of other people. We must constantly exercise careful thought, subjecting our beliefs and actions to continual criticism and appraisal. To provide a standard by which to assess ourselves, some moral code or set of ethical maxims is needed. A formal religion usually provides this, as well as the regular discipline in self-assessment.
We must choose carefully the company we mix with; to ensure that we come under desirable influences. At the same time we must hold fast to our ideals and not allow ourselves to be swayed by those around us. The person who is sure of himself and knows that his life is based on a secure philosophy is the best placed to do this. We must choose our reading carefully. In the classic works of fiction we find an insight into human nature and the motives which inspire men's actions which cannot fail to have a beneficial effect on anyone who reads with attention.
Also we must spend time in thinking, both about ourselves and about the condition of the world we live in. We must ensure that we clearly understand all the implications of our beliefs and are prepared to carry them out, even when it is not to our material advantage to do so.
In these ways we can develop the self-awareness, the ability to stand outside ourselves and take a detached view of our actions, seeing ourselves as far as we can as others see us. We can discover the conflicting opinions which we hold and begin to find the means of altering or reconciling them.
Finally, we must always remember that it is hypocritical to try to justify wrong behaviour on the grounds that good eventually came of it. Not only is this plea morally wrong it is wrong in fact, for the end cannot justify the means. On the contrary, the means determine what the end shall be.