Here in New Orleans, the papers are full of front-page stuff about Senator Vitter's extracurricular activities. Porn publisher Flynt says there's more to come: he's on a mission to out the hypocrites who talk about family values while running a tab at houses of ill repute. Naturally, what Flynt (and most of us) call hypocrisy is very close to what psychologists call "compensation." And compensatory behavior is an acknowledgement, even if in an unhealthy way, that what one is doing is bad and that reparation needs to be made. I tend to think that hypocrisy comes in when all that reparation and bold, virtuous speachifying is done for the purpose of deception; somethign else is going on when it is a case of semi-conscious compensation.
It's easy enough to condemn hypocrisy. Especially when you can point to such blatantly hypocritical behavior. Besides, blaming has the convenient side effect of distracting an audience from other matters.
One thing that really strikes me in the current case is that Vitter made a pretty straightforward statement about having committed "serious sins" (that's certainly telling it like it is--most other people who have been similarly outed resort to self-defensive language). Vitter also mentioned "confession." If Vitter's confession was genuine, then we are not so much looking at hypocrisy as at conversion. And conversion should be allowed, even in our political system, because if we disallow conversion we will have...hypocrisy instead. In fact, what we need to do is foster a culture that permits conversion, transformation and personal renewal. We all need this, and we need it constantly. The tendency to consistently accuse others of hypocrisy could very well be a sign that one is failing to live in an attitude of awareness and continual conversion.