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Hypocrites are individuals who consciously or unconsciously have a double standard of behavior, who appear to be honest and sincere persons of upright integrity, but are instead false and duplicitous in their ethical or moral conduct. They may be consciously living a lie, to gain personal advantage, such as prestige or power, or they may be sincerely self-deceived. They outwardly seem to be what in fact they are not.

Many hypocrites commit the logical fallacy of special pleading for their own actions or omissions. Often, in response to criticism, they accuse others of being hypocrites, either deliberately, knowing themselves to be guilty of actual ethical, religious and moral infractions, or in the mistaken belief that they are innocent of any wrongdoing and therefore think that they are not themselves actually being hypocritical (although they are). In either case, whether innocent or guilty, persons charged with being hypocrites are offended. They may even sue their accusers for slander and/or libel.

In religion, government, politics, journalism, education, business, sports, and health and human services, persons seen as influential, and trusted, leaders, who are exposed as hypocrites, who have violated standards of integrity and right conduct, are sources of public scandal. When they apologize, they are seldom believed, according to the proverbial saying, "They're not sorry they did it, they're only sorry they got caught."

Christians who proclaim objective standards of truth and righteousness against a liberal, agnostic and atheistic culture of moral, ethical, philosophical and theological relativism are consistently charged with being intolerant and bigotted hypocrites.

Historically, many virtuous persons who have actually offended no one have been villainously libeled with the unjust and unfounded charge that they are secretly hypocrites. See Book of Wisdom chapter 2:12-21.

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