NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS

HYPOCRITICAL



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HELPFUL TIP:

Characters with this flaw will be extra sensitive to certain emotions, so think about how events in your story might specifically trigger these feelings to generate compelling tension and conflict. Another idea is to give a supporting character a positive attribute that is an opposite of this flaw, which will get under the skin of both characters and cause friction in their relationship.
DEFINITION:
Pretending to be what one isn’t; claiming to believe what one doesn’t

SIMILAR FLAWS:
Artificial, dissembling, phony, two-faced

POSSIBLE CAUSES:
A fear of retribution
Wanting to please others
Being uncertain about exactly what one believes
Unreasonable expectations
Growing up in an overly strict, judgmental environment
Having a secret to hide
Having poor willpower and self-control

ASSOCIATED BEHAVIORS AND ATTITUDES:
Saying one thing but doing another
Embracing double standards: It’s okay for me but it’s not okay for you.
Expressing support for a cause but participating in activities that are in opposition
Lying and dishonesty
Judging others
Privately running down someone to whom one expresses loyalty to in public
Switching beliefs or loyalties when it is in one’s best interest to do so
Playing the experience card: I’m the parent, or I know more about this kind of thing.
Making creative excuses or acting haughty when caught
Preaching forgiveness while holding grudges
Shifting attention by citing another’s shortcomings: Well, you’re not sticking to your diet either!
Lacking conviction in one’s beliefs but being too afraid to admit it
Allowing peer pressure to overpower one’s beliefs
Desiring opposing things and being unable to choose
Pretending that one’s job, health, life, etc., is perfect when it’s not
Taking extreme care to not be caught doing what one shouldn’t
Having an excuse ready just in case: Oh, this beer isn’t mine. I’m bringing it to Uncle Steve.
Greed
Arrogance and self-centeredness
Being opportunistic
Going to great lengths to hide what one is doing
Rebuking others for infractions that one is guilty of committing
Exhibiting signs of lying (fast talking, jittery movements, lack of eye contact, etc.)
Behaving immorally and then going to church to even the scales
Saying that one is a Christian yet acting rude, unkind, and judgmental of others
Engaging in affairs
Having difficulty accepting responsibility for one’s mistakes
Feeling validated by the hypocritical behavior of others
Putting oneself first
Being highly observant

ASSOCIATED THOUGHTS:
I hope no one finds out.
Why can’t I do what’s right?
How can I spin this so everybody believes me?

ASSOCIATED EMOTIONS:

POSITIVE ASPECTS:
Hypocrites are often discerning and able to read people. They are also attuned to opportunities that allow them to further their own interests. Because they’re accustomed to living a double life, they’re adept liars and are able to deceive others if required.

NEGATIVE ASPECTS:
A hypocritical character abuses the trust of others and often will play upon that trust to get what he wants. He is comfortable with deception—so much so that the lie and the truth may become confused in his own mind. On the other hand, the unintentional hypocrite may truly want to behave a certain way but struggle to do so consistently. This lack of discipline can lead to insecurity, guilt, and more hypocrisy as he determines to hide his weakness from the world.

EXAMPLES FROM LITERATURE:
The Pardoner (Canterbury Tales) is a self-proclaimed shyster—a preacher who sermonizes about greed and covetousness, the very sins that enslave him. When his sermons are done, he sells fake relics of healing and salvation. His only goal is to line his pockets, and if he can do it through lying and taking advantage of those who trust him, then so be it. Other Examples from Film and Literature: the Bishop of Aquila (Ladyhawke), Warden Samuel Norton (Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption)

OVERCOMING THIS TRAIT AS A MAJOR FLAW:
Hypocrisy can either be overt or covert; some people knowingly deceive others into thinking they’re a certain way when they’re not, while others truly want to be a certain way but struggle with weakness in that area. Both kinds of people need to do two things: 1) see themselves realistically and accept that reality, and 2) allow others to see who they really are. If there is a weakness to be overcome, it should be faced and dealt with head-on, without trying to deceive others.

TRAITS IN SUPPORTING CHARACTERS THAT MAY CAUSE CONFLICT: