-What I proclaim may not be what I practice well

I thought it might be time for a couple of disclaimers since I have been talking more about my faith and I am finding that this is not likely to stop. I've always blogged to help myself think and act better and right now the route I am taking is getting me into more directly theological discussion grounds.

First, a presupposition --  when I am talking specifically about Catholic things, I am not trying to be offensive to others of different faiths. I am a convert, and obviously wouldn't have converted if I didn't believe that Catholicism was true. However, I don't want to be a boor about it, and if you do find something I have said seems to ping your discourtesy bells, please let me know and I will ponder amending it to frame the issue to reflect substance with clarity.

Now for Disclaimer 1.  I don't practice what I preach -- ie when I'm discussing a moral issue in high tones, that does not mean that my life strikes anywhere near the same high note. But if I wasn't trying to do better, I wouldn't even bring it up on the blog.

There are two things that are different but can get confused at times -- inept sincerity, and intentional hypocrisy. Let me try to use an Olympic analogy since the Winter Olympics are just past and my youngest is studying Ancient Greece right now.

Let's take the marathon. Realistically we have to acknowledge that someone holds the world record right now and what that record is. That's just fact.

Given that, you could be someone who recognizes the record even though you are far from it. ... you are just a beginner or rather ungifted runner. You are trying your best to improve but you have a long way to go and sometimes you even get discouraged and slack for a time before you get on track, or maybe you get too ahead of yourself and think you're doing better than you really are. But you sincerely acknowledge the validity of the record and the excellence of the people who approach it. I will call that inept sincerity. That's the category I fall into. Unfortunately, inept sincerity can sometimes overlap unintentional hypocrisy because you just aren't close enough to the goal to actually measure your own efforts clearly enough.

Now intentional hypocrisy. You still acknowledge the record to an extent, but you devalue those who set the record and those who approach it, and you lie about your own efforts. If you could fool everyone into believing you were one of the top three at least, you would. If you could discredit the real champions you would.  You do your best to put on a show of being competitive but of course people who know will see through the facade to some extent.

Way better than either inept sincerity or intentional hypocrisy is actual performance. The people who are approaching the record are the ones to watch, because what they are doing actually works. This is why I try to quote "winners", the saints of the holy Writ and those who have been distinguished in the Christian practice through history. If you know you're a rank amateur it makes sense to pay a lot of attention to those who have gone before and excelled. It may help me do better (I hope so) and it also can be helpful to those in the same category as myself, and probably entertaining to those who are way ahead. The blind can't lead the blind, to change the metaphor, but the blind can rely on the walk of those who see.

Now here's a flight of imagination. Pretend that the first boy who ran the marathon to warn the king and died in the process wasn't a simple boy serving the king but also really the king warning those he ruled. In the process of running the marathon he also set the record for all time and also made it possible for all the future runners to succeed if they put in the effort. Personal talent or lack of it wasn't one of the deciding factors anymore, because he gave them enough of his to go on. And there wasn't an exclusionary factor where only the top three won. Anyone gained the laurel to the extent that they put forward their utmost to learn and practice what it took. Their effort was made "sufficient" by him.

This might sound a bit like one of those junior soccer leagues where everyone that pays in the fee gets a trophy regardless of anything else but it's way different than that. To flatten out a competition so that "everyone wins" even the people barely going through the moves is like saying it's only the journey that counts, even if it ends in stopping after a few hundred yards or going off in an entirely different tangent (like say, warning the king's enemy instead of the king).  It's impersonal, while what the king has done is thoroughly personal -- perhaps only comparable to a coach who absolutely pours himself into giving the athletes the tools to succeed, only such a comparison breaks down partway through. 

OK, a limited analogy but the best one I could think of. Anyway, the point is that  I'm not trying to be a hypocrite when I'm discussing high practice through some reading of mine, and just because I'm inept doesn't mean that the project itself is discredited. Even hypocrisy doesn't objectively discredit the project because cheating pays lip service to excellence like hypocrisy pays lip service to true virtue. It's duplicitous but the duplicity belongs to the culprit and doesn't reflect on the endeavor in itself.