It is a natural human tendency to wish to make a good first impression. There is nothing inherently wrong with this desire. If efforts to put our best foot forward are limited to interaction with strangers, we might need to probe our motives. Ironically, the most hurtful things are said within the family and between spouses. How does this happen? What can we do to avoid it? How important is it for spouses to continue to put forth their best efforts?
A continuing desire to please our spouse is vital to a successful marriage and the prolonging of the honeymoon period through eternity. Webster defines honeymoon as “a period of harmony immediately following marriage.” Although specifically focused on strengthening marriage, the principles discussed in this article may be applied to other family, friendship and workplace relationships.
Honeymoons end once we cross the threshold between giving, loving service and regretful, selfish words or actions. It is at this point that we may feel exposed and sense that people can see right through us. We may even think, “Now that the real me has been discovered, why keep up the pretense?” Others may verbalize it as “That’s just the way I am!” Or even, “I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”
Frailty of character is part of the human condition. Imperfection punctuates our humanity. A Christ-like attribute is the humility to continue to try to be the person we have not yet become but hope to become someday: to put our best foot forward even after others have seen us at our worst. For our purposes, we shall call this attribute genuine intent.
Truly, there is a fine line between genuine intent and its counterfeit, hypocrisy. One definition of hypocrisy, involves telling others not to do something we ourselves are guilty of doing. Another, of building an image of ourselves as having strength in an area of weakness. Interestingly, there is yet another definition—sometimes ascribed to moral psychology—that comes very close to our definition of genuine intent: “Behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel” (Webster).
Yet there are vital differences between genuine intent and hypocrisy. The latter is all about pretense. It is fueled by pride. The former is driven by the humility required to keep trying to put forth our best efforts even—or especially—after others have seen us at our worst. Hypocrisy is about managing first impressions while genuine intent is about working on personal growth.
Once again, there is nothing inherently wrong in trying to make a good first impression. But our motive was a hypocritical one if we give up on trying our best as soon as others have seen our weaknesses. It is precisely when we give up on ourselves that we prove our hypocritical motive.