Hypocrisy or Humanity?

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I don't live the life I preach.

I preach compassion, but sometimes I am uncaring.

I preach forgiveness, but sometimes I hold a grudge.

I preach hope, but sometimes I feel hopeless.

I preach generosity, but sometimes I am miserly.

I have to admit I have reread old sermons of mine, and have been convicted by my own words.

The fact is, I preach what I believe should be. And yet I don't measure up to what I preach. Does that make me a hypocrite?

I don't think so.

When I am critical of others for doing what I do myself, then I am a hypocrite. And that does indeed happen.

But when I preach a better world, when I preach a better way to be, I am often preaching as much to myself as I am to the congregation. Most of my sermons end with an assignment for the week, and I usually remember to include myself in that assignment. Whether I'm able to keep my mind on that assignment throughout the week is another matter entirely, and it reminds me to accept that others will forget as well.

I'm human. I fall short. For me to not be a hypocrite, it is not required that I become more perfect and less human; instead, I must recognize the humanity - and the fallibility - in myself and others.

We all could do better. And what I try to do in preaching is inspire people to try again, to remind all of us - myself included - of the better ways we could live.

The alternative is to just preach what people already do, what people already are, what the world already is. That kind of preaching has no power.

Preaching what could be - dare I say, preaching the dominion of God - has the power to be transformational. Transformation doesn't happen overnight: it happens from continuous attention to, and work on, those things we want to transform.

Still, I need to hear what I preach. I need to listen to myself. The preacher who does not see how her preaching applies to herself runs the risk of hypocrisy.

But I will preach about a way of being that I have not yet attained. My sermons are not telling people to "be like me." They are telling all of us to reach higher.

I preach what I wish will come true - for the world, and for me. But I preach a dream of a future, not a reality of the present. Because preaching the present doesn't change anything.

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