In the modern sense, a hypocrite is someone who criticizes something that he also does, or someone who acts in manner that he specifically does not condone.This is considered to be a bad thing, in most cases, and there are plenty of idioms that express when someone is acting in this manner. “The pot calling the kettle black,” is a classic one, and “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” is equally popular.
Parenting can be a fertile field for finding examples of hypocrisy. A parent who smokes and tells her children not to, is reeking of tobacco and hypocrisy. It’s difficult to expect children to take such a parent seriously, since he or she is acting in a manner that cancels out his or her advice. Similarly, a parent who curses frequently will have a hard time convincing his or her children not to swear.
Political candidates and commentators from all sides of the political spectrum can act with hypocrisy. Candidates who run on “family values” platforms and then have affairs are a good example. When their behavior is exposed, much of what they do or say in all aspects of their lives or political careers is called into question.
Comedians, especially those who evaluate politicians, often find hypocrisy one of the easiest things to mock. Political satire shows like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show often focus on how political candidates make statements that are hypocritical. They point out statements political leaders have made in the past to show that their positions do not stay static and often contradict what they’ve previously stated. In other words, they set double standards: one for themselves, and one for the rest of the world.
While the hypocrite may at some times be laughable, at other times, particularly when looking at people with political power, it can reduce faith in the political system and politics in general. People grow weary of scandals, lies, and deliberate hypocrisy, and they may wonder if any politician is free from such behavior. Psychologists have suggested that people tend to be most critical about characteristics in others that they most hate in themselves. Perhaps it is impossible to never be 100% straightforward, though the goal of having a person's words match his or her deeds is a good one to set.
Historically, the definition of this word has evolved over time, and now has a completely different meaning from its original one. In Ancient Greece, a hypocrite was someone who played a part, acted a part, or dissembled. Hypocrisy was the tool of actors, rhetoricians, and debaters. Specifically in rhetoric and debate, each side of an argument must be assigned, and a person must then take whichever part to his or her fullest capacity. People understand that the side they take may not represent their true point of view; instead, it’s merely a position in an argument that helps them to better understand the sides of an issue.