Integrity and its opposite – hypocrisy

Clare Condon SGS
Photo: Annie Gordon

Integrity and hypocrisy play out in all aspects of societal life; in politics, business, religion and even sport, writes Good Samaritan Sister Clare Condon.

BY Clare Condon SGS*

Recently when I was interviewed as part of the commemoration of 150 years of Rosebank College, in Sydney, I was asked, “Has longevity of an institution anything to do with integrity?”

This question invited me to reflect on the significance of integrity and its opposite – hypocrisy, in how individuals and institutions relate and survive, or not, in a changing and complex world over a period of 150 years, or even 2,000 years. Integrity and hypocrisy play out in all aspects of societal life; in politics, business, religion and even sport.

In the March 13 edition of The Sydney Morning Herald, Tim Dick wrote an opinion piece about hypocrisy in politics. He wrote: “…hypocrisy shouldn’t be the slur it still pretends to be, given how widespread it is in Australian life and how necessary it is to political productivity. The practice of saying one thing and doing or voting for another is endemic, in politics and life, yet there is both good and bad hypocrisy”.

But is there good and bad hypocrisy? Or is hypocrisy an attitude and action that continually gnaws away at the fabric of a society, if it is not exposed for what it is? I believe that to argue for good hypocrisy is a contradiction in terms.

Tim Dick was not arguing in this vein, but he was putting before the community its own practices of hypocrisy, and often its unreflected contradictions; as one example he put forward: “landlord parents despairing for their children unable to rent, work and save their way onto a home of their own – yet happily buying up investment properties and deducting the income losses along the way to second, third, fourth property riches”.

I think that such a simple example challenges us to consider our own stance on many personal and societal issues, as well as the stances that society’s various institutions take. Do I do as I say? Does the institution do what it proclaims? Does an institution stand up to scrutiny when its actions are examined? If not, it will struggle to survive, let alone prosper.

I think longevity can assist us in our understanding of institutional integrity. By such a statement, I do not mean that every short-lived enterprise lacks integrity. Many ventures are simply meant to be short-term. They achieve their goal successfully. However, some ventures collapse very quickly, because they falter at the integrity test.

Look at the lack of longevity in Australian politics in recent years. Leaders of political parties, and therefore Prime Ministers, have come and gone. There can be many explanations put forward for this phenomenon. I think one particular problem in both the political arena and in society is that hypocrisy takes hold under many guises. Self-aggrandisement, self-interest and institutional win-at-all-costs often override integrity and right judgement on many fronts. The populace sees hypocrisy for what it is and so shuns both individuals and institutions that consistently compromise their stated values for self-gain, or for other less lofty reasons.

Here in Australia, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has exposed the lack of integrity of many institutions, church and otherwise. Such institutions and individuals seem not to have lived by the dictum of integrity! Other insidious self-protective attitudes have compromised their fundamental beliefs.

If these institutions are to reclaim their credibility and integrity, they need a reformation that drives to the heart of their stated purpose, which will drive out hypocrisy and restore integrity. Only then can ongoing longevity be sustained.

* Sister Clare Condon is the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict.

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The Good Oil, March 21, 2017. If you would like to republish this article, please contact the editor.

3 Responses to “Integrity and its opposite – hypocrisy”

  1. kevin Treston says:

    Thanks Clare for such a relevant article. For people generally, the question arises now, ‘Who or what can I believe?’ When ‘alternate facts’ are offered at the highest levels of government, where does that leave people who seek truth? I find it quite disturbing now, that on any topic such as, climate change, the condition of the Barrier Reef, the impact of fossil fuels, it is almost impossible to get a carefully reasoned, researched article. You rightly highlight ‘integrity’ as one of the most important desired features of communal life.

  2. Jeanie Heininger sgs says:

    Thanks Clare for your article which helped me find insights into the connection between integrity and hypocrisy. I think we can offer prayer, meditation and repentance during our lenten journey. We can immerse ourselves in spiritual reading that help shape our understanding of world events.

  3. Marie Casamento says:

    What a challenging article Clare. I must say politics frustrates me in that in many instances the individual tears the other down in order to avoid acting with integrity. Early last month I stood with a group of people as we watch a women verbally and physically abused as she tried to cross the road. Later crossing the road I saw the police and integrity moved me to speak up. I could not be silent. Bully takes many forms. Marie

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