Is it hypocritical to criticize others for faults we ourselves have?

by Chaitanya CharanApril 12, 2015

Answer Podcast:

Time: 6 minutes

Transcription by: Vrindavaneshvari Devi Dasi

Question: Can we criticize others for the faults which we ourselves have? Sometimes we criticize others for whatever wrong they do but we also succumb to those mistakes ourselves, so are we being hypocritical?

Answer (short):
• If we correct others in a mood of “I am great and you are fallen”, but we ourselves are indulged in similar wrong doings, then we are certainly acting in a hypocritical way.
• However, if we correct others in a mood of offering our help thinking, “I am also conditioned and vulnerable to anarthas, but since I have got some understanding of shastra by devotees’ and Krishna’s mercy, so I would like to share that with you for your benefit”, then we are not acting hypocritically. Such correction is not called as “criticism” but “education.”

Answer (long):
“Criticism” is not the right word for this. Actually, what we do is “we assist others” in making right choices. While assisting others in making right choices, our mood should always be of helping. We should not position ourselves as if we are sitting on a high pedestal like a judge who sentences others for wrong doings. On the contrary, our mood should be of a patient who is helping another patient. When we take high moral ground, and come off with holier than thou thinking, “I am great and you are fallen”, then such an attitude will alienate people.
If we take to high moral ground and later ourselves indulge in wrong doings because of our conditioning or weakness, then we certainly become hypocritical. If such actions by us become known to others, especially to those whom we have criticized earlier, then they will not only reject us, but also reject what we represent as hypocritical.

At the same time, if we do not tell others, that is also not good. This is because if we have been blessed with knowledge then it becomes our responsibility to share this knowledge with others. Therefore, rather than calling it as “criticism” we can call it as “education.” Please note education does not mean “we are a teacher and others are students” but “we all are fellow students.” We may be in the university a little longer and others may have come little later than us. Since we all are fellow students, we should help each other.
Our mood should be, “I am also conditioned and I am also vulnerable to anarthas, but since I have got some understanding of shastras by devotees’ and Krishna’s mercy, so I would like to share that with others for their benefit.” If we correct others with such mood, then we will not be called as hypocritical.

Also, we must be careful whenever we correct others. The words that we choose to correct others are important. Words can have different connotations for different people and should be used sensitively. We should give due respect to others while assisting, considering ourselves to be fallen than others.

It should be remembered that the act of correction should not make a direct attack on the person. We must remind people the truth that they are good souls, a precious part of Krishna, who have become coated with anarthas but certainly have the potential to become pure.

In the third canto of Srimad Bhagvatam, it is said that the duty of a saintly person is to reassure and make everyone fearless by telling them about their spiritual identity and about the glories of Supreme Lord. This should be at the core of our message.

If people are told that they are doing something wrong, then such an approach will alienate them from their spiritual nature. Such an approach can deprive them of spiritual happiness which we are trying to re-assure them through our message.

The end-result of whatever we speak, as much as possible, should be encouraging and not discouraging. Our goal should be to lift people up. Such a non-judgmental attitude will help in preventing any hypocrisy coming up in our behavior.

About The Author
Chaitanya Charan