Written by Jake Kail
Hypocrisy is to wear a mask of righteousness in order to veil a heart of wickedness. It is a holy public persona that hides a hellish private reality. We can see this dynamic at work in abusers and predators who blend into the church undetected. One of the primary ways that a chronic hypocrite wears a phony mask is through deceptive and destructive speech. Consider how the following verses connect hypocrisy with the use of words:
“…speaking lies in hypocrisy” (1 Timothy 4:2)
“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking” (1 Peter 2:1, emphasis added).
“The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor” (Proverbs 11:9, emphasis added).
Below is an excerpt from Hypocrisy Exposed that outlines four types of speech that are commonly used by abusers and habitual hypocrites:
1. Deceptive Speech
Chronic hypocrites rely on deceptive speech in order to maintain their righteous image before others. Sometimes it comes in the form of flat-out lying. Other times it is speaking half-truths, manipulating the facts, twisting the truth, or denying reality. It could be garnering sympathy through self-pity and playing the victim. It could be manipulation to make another person feel guilty or pressured to comply with them. As we saw in the previous chapter, it could be feigned repentance or false apologies.
Remember that hypocrites are skilled actors; they can play the part in a very convincing way. They can tell blatant lies in a way that seems so sincere and truthful. They have mastered the art of deception. They know how much truth to include and how much to withhold. They know how to lie in a way that takes advantage of others. Some pathological liars can pass a lie detector test because lying has become second nature and their conscience has been seared.
We often tend to take people’s word for granted and believe the best. This is because we project our healthy conscience and love for the truth onto others and assume that a professing Christian will want to walk in the light. Only when things begin not to add up over time do we start to question things and seek to verify what is being said. While the answer to this is not to become suspicious of everyone, it is important to be aware that some people—even professing believers—are skilled liars and deceivers. We need increased discernment and an ability to recognize signs of deception.
Flattery is when kind, encouraging, or complementary words are spoken insincerely and for impure reasons. Proverbs 29:5 says it well: “A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.” Flattery is the counterfeit of encouragement. The words may be the same, but the motive behind the words is vastly different. Encouragement speaks in order to give; flattery speaks in order to take. We must learn to discern the spirit behind the words, not just the content of the words.
Flattery is hypocrisy because it is evil disguised as good. The hypocrite may use flattery to get us on their side, make us think they like us and care for us, and cause us to think well of them. Flattery can be used as bait to draw us into a relationship that turns out to be abusive, or to keep the cycle of abuse going. Flattering words can appeal to our ego and desire for validation, thus making us susceptible to being drawn into its trap. The more secure we are in Christ, the less vulnerable we will be to flattery.
To slander is to spread false or misleading statements about a person that does damage to their reputation. This character assassination causes others to misperceive them, disregard them, or totally shut them out. Hypocrites use slander when it suits their agenda or the narrative that they are trying to uphold. Anyone who could potentially expose them might become a target of slander. Or perhaps slander will come as a result of envy or hatred. Jesus was a threat to the Pharisees and their whole corrupt system. They resorted to slander in order to poison the minds of people against Him and cause them to perceive Him differently.
Slander is demonic in nature. One of the Greek words that is translated “slanderous” and “slanderers” in the New Testament is diabolos, which is the same exact word that is most often translated as “the devil.” The point is clear; to slander is to lend your lips to the devil!
4. False Accusation
Closely related to slander is false accusation. This again is satanic in nature, as the very name Satan means accuser. The devil is behind false accusations, which aim to bring confusion and condemnation. Consider the following examples of how false accusations are sometimes used:
- False prophets, cult leaders, and spiritually abusive pastors will slander and falsely accuse those who leave their church/ministry or those who try to confront their corrupt behavior.
- One sinister tactic is when child abusers preemptively accuse a child of being a liar. They engrain the accusation into the child’s mind so that they will question their own reality or be afraid to speak up about what is happening for fear of lying or being accused of lying.
- Abusive husbands are often known to have irrational and excessive jealousy over their wife. This is not a sign of love, but a means of isolation and control. They will accuse their wife of cheating on them, when it is the furthest thing from the truth and they are actually the unfaithful one.
As stated in the previous chapter, hypocrites have a plank in their own eye, but insist on putting the focus on the speck in yours (see Matthew 7:3-5). Many times, their accusations are actually a projection of what is true of themselves. They accuse you of being unfaithful, when in reality they are the one cheating. They accuse you of being a liar, when they are given over to deceptive speech. They accuse you of being a phony, when they are the one living in duplicity. They continually deflect responsibility and avoid accountability.