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What is hypocrisy? And what are the signs of hypocrites?

Updated on August 20, 2008

Hypocrisy Defined

Hypocrisy simply means to present yourself as honest, upright and moral to the degree that you are willing to put others down and critique them for not having the same values ... when in fact you are nowhere near what you pretend to be... you are in fact doing what you have reprimanded others for. A few years ago, you may recall, there was a young man who worked for the New York Times by the name of Jayson Blair. Jayson would "embellish" or make up almost all of his stories and the New York Times knew it because they fired him once and then re-hired him. The guy could write... (too bad he didn't know about hubpages) and people were drawn to reading his writing... as long as the public wasn't the wiser the Times said nothing. However, as soon as public eyebrows began to raise... the New York Times basically threw him under the bus (as they should have done for his deceptive ways). Now, I stated all of that to say this to say that The New York Times was aware of Jayson's lying and awesome fictional writing skills of the past... Why didn't they check on the facts, why did they allow him to continue with one amazing story after the next? It seems here, ladies and gentlemen we have more than one act of hypocrisy... was it bad boy, you've been caught or was it bad boy - you shouldn't have been caught? Were they and the public outraged that he did it or were they outraged because they believed him. Hypocrisy is a sticky subject and motives/intent (which no one really knows except the individuals involved) are usually the determining factor.

Symptoms & Self Examination

Most individuals involved in hypocrisy are arrogant at the very least and most likely narcisist. They already believe that they are smarter, more creative and completely superior to humanity as a whole. They are selfish and self centered. (I am now going to get a little personal...) How many of us have done - on a smaller scale - what Blair took to a whole new level?

Take this scenario... You are chronically late to work by 20 minutes to 30 minutes a day... Your supervisor threatens a "write up" if you are late again. You arrive 20 minutes late to work but your boss didn't see you... what do you do? A) Call your boss and say, "I am 20 minutes late for work for the 4th time this week" B)Slip in your chair and fire up your computer without saying a word to anybody. C) Swear up and down that you were at work 20 minutes early you just had to run to your car for something?

Okay, that was pretty easy. Let's try another scene: You are speeding down the street in a school zone in the morning at 65 mph, to make things worse there is a four way stop sign... you slow roll through it and a cop pulls you over... what do you do?

A) smile ever so politely as you say "good morning, officer... what's the problem?" B) Start yelling at the officer about chasing real criminals C) state that you are new to the city and didn't know it was a school zone, didn't know why the kids were running - just figured they were late and ... was there a stop sign? D) quietly take the ticket

You are having a non-productive day at the office and decided to surf the web and type a "hub" during regular work hours... just can't concentrate today. Your supervisor walks up behind you, What do you say? What do you do?

A) Sigh deep and mutter something about being so stressed and that you were attempting to research the exact location of the office in question, while minimizing the window. B) You heard somebody approaching and you already had a word document up with a pre-typed letter on it that was sent last month but you pretend that you just finished typing it and you hit print ... and with a business (seriously fierce) look on your face you look your sup in the eye. C) You say sheepishly "oh gee, you caught me on the net again... I just can't seem to get it together tody... can we count that as my 3rd lunch today... I just won't take one for the rest of the week.)

Okay, I'm being a little over the top with the quiz but I think you are getting what I am saying. Sometimes we get all high and mighty about somebody lying to us when the majority of people in the world today... given a hard place to stand do not have the integrity to be honest and tell the truth. So does that mean we are all hypocrites. Well, let's look at that.

Signs of a Hypocrite

The first sign that you are dealing with a hypocrite is that they are always telling you that they are honest. Just as a light bulb doesn't have to tell you what it does or what it is...honest people do not have to advertise. Hypocrites always carry their angel wings and halo. If you catch them in a lie they always have a story, even if it doesn't make sense, as to why they didn't do, why they did,... they are quite imaginative. Hypocrites are the first to point the finger and will never accept responsibility for any mishap, mistake or error. Lastly, hypocrites make a lot of noise... my mother used to say an empty can makes a lot of noise... it is true. There mouth is always going... they are always running for the positive limelight and like roaches they scurry for darkness when the results for negative behaviors are being served. It is never their fault! Their intent is to decieve in an effort to present themselves in the best possible light. Their motivation is to look good at any cost. So if you have a halo, wings and a nice fluffy white robe and you are still alive... you just might be -


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    • profile image

      Fernando 15 months ago

      I see so many people admitting to hypocrisy. Before you do that ask yourself this. Does the problem at hand conflict with one or more of your values? Did you resolve it according to its greater imoacted value. For example, let's say that your young daughter hands you an art painting that is meh but you know she put her heart and soul in it. Your options are to tell her how mediocre it is and to work harder because after all you believe in always telling the truth and working hard. Your other option is to be kind and tell her how much you appreciate her beautiful painting because you believe in kindness, love and family. You believe in both kindness, honesty and love so which do you choose? Which choice would make you a hypocrite? I'll leave that as food for thought.

      We can grow and learn every day and depending on where we are in our journey will determine our answer. However, a true measure of hipocrisy is by asking the question what would the right action be if the roles were reversed. If the answer is different from your actions taken then I would say that's hypocrisy.

      I can easily tell my boss that my job stinks and that could obviously get me fired but hey I'm being honest. And perhaps that could help him fix it and make it and the organization better. On the other hand it could strike a nerve with her beliefs. Or I could avoid letting my boss know that, because as much as my job may stink it puts food on the table for my family and that's more important to me. It is important to be honest but it's much more important to determine when to choose to strike with honesty.

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      nsncy 2 years ago

      I'm a straight forward woman I cant stand artificial n hypocrite women

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      Mohd faisal 3 years ago

      hypocrisy believers change their statement promptly more frequently such people dilute main points to such extent that listeners become confused or tired

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      Sanctuary 3 years ago

      You picked a tough subject and it was pretty short and a bit hard to comprehend. Hypocrisy is claiming to practice or believe in standards you do not practice, obey or follow yourself. Like a little lie you can have a little hypocrisy or you can be a big lie or a hypocrite. Sometimes a lack of knowledge makes us a hypocrite and some things are practices that require practice to not be one. Your story of the the writer would only be a hypocrite if he condemned fake stories. If he never condemned others for false stories he would just be a lying journalist, not a hypocrite. A judge is speeding and gets a ticket is he a hypocrite or did he just make a mistake? If he thought he was above the law and did not deserve a ticket he would be a hypocrite. This is the kind of fight we have with our kids, remember we are above our own laws at times. Some things are not hypocrisy at all and our only self created. A Christian cursing for example. Was it used as an adjective to describe something or was I condemning another person. Maturity is always required to overcome hypocrisy but some things are to immoral and unethical to escape hypocrisy. Why people live in hypocrisy has a million reasons. The number of people forced to live in hypocrisy each day is almost all of us. Yet its only hypocrisy if you choose to be something better. The absence of truth is hypocrisy for example. How easy is it to live a life of Christian values? Its not fun when humanity forces us to treat people as something other then people but so many jobs require us to. The difference is practicing to live with out hypocrisy and it is a challenge to not be a hypocrite at times. This does not mean any mental label applies to most of us. A real hypocrite is someone who believes that no practice is required to not be one. Its the belief that you our saved with out any works or self improvement. I meet so many who never spiritually mature past the I am saved part of going to church. If you work for it and begin to mature spiritually you really discover how hard it is. The rules really change and they begin to mean something else other then what people say they mean.

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      Nordlys 4 years ago

      The first sign that you are dealing with a hypocrite is that they are always telling you that they are honest.

      Not always. Surely, I just meed an hypocrite that tells around he is honest etc... (he fits almost perfecty in the description 'sign of a hypocrite'

      But I'm also hypocrite, even if i don't fit perfectly in the description. I'm just another kind of hypocrite: because I avoid to fight for my beliefs with people that don't support my ideals, and I just say what are my ideas (i just tell them in a generic way).

      I don't tell around that I'm honest simply because i know is not true. I don't even tell around that i'm hypocrite (well, i did it twice).

      Politeness is also being hypocrite, even whn you tell the truth. I'm envious of my best friend that isn't a hypocrite.

      " If you catch them in a lie they always have a story, even if it doesn't make sense, as to why they didn't do, why they did"

      I did it once (believing in my own liars), now i don't fell the need to lie, or better I lie less, but just because i'm more mature.

      "they are quite imaginative" That's a truth (about me).

      " However these days from my observation we seem to be on a downhill spiral "

      You're too young. Think to our grand parents: They were always polite and when people meet each other, they badmouthed about people that weren't there. Today we are less polite but there is political correctness. Is not a downhill spiral, is just regular shifting from a form to hypocrisy to another. Hypocrite people (some) think they are better than other. Non hypocrite people never notice that they are above other, in fact they are healtly humble (they admit that stupid people are stupid people, but for examplke, my friend that isn't a hypocrite, don't consider herself better than me, while she obliously is.

      but why is it easier to lie than tell the truth?

      Telling the truth is not enough.

      Ahmad Usman

      Instead of quoting quran and conforming to it, think with your own brain. Or what you said has no value because is not your opinion. (And your prophet had not clear ideas about the meaning of the word)

      1 - Whenever he is entrusted, he proves dishonest.

      No. That's't just a cheater

      2. Whenever he speaks, he tells a lie.

      No, just a liar (hypocrites can actually tell a true. they just sugarcoat it)

      3. Whenever he promises, he breaks his promise.

      No, is just an untrustworthy person.

      4. Whenever he quarrels, he behaves in a very imprudent, evil and insulting manner.

      No, that's totally opposite.


      Naturally, man is hypocrite, the only way out (...) Holiness no man shall see the Lord.

      God gave us free will, it has no sense if we have to be as God want us to be. Or you really don't believe in free will?

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      Sue 5 years ago

      I work with someone who preaches all day long, going to Bible Study, and tells everyone who works through the door all about the good deeds she's involved in. She constantly turns every conversation back to HER. But she also talks about people behing they're backs constantly, when she's not preaching. She is narciaatic and self centered. It is a TOTAL turn off of her religion, if this is the example. Hypocrite.

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      Intelektual 5 years ago

      The office internet example you quoted was not hypocricy because the demands and expectations from the bosses were a little too high the same is the case of being late. Human's are not machines and a relaxed working environment needs only be questioned if the productivity is damaged directly because of it !

      If I were a Boss I would have no problems with my employees being late to the office or Blogging from work if I am getting all their assignments in time ! After all I am paying them for their work not punctuality nor for acting like a programmed cyborg...

      Hypocricy is only when there's a difference between your practice and your preaching !! If you lie and endorse and preach lying to others in similar situation you are only a lier not a hypocrite !

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      Adeleye A. 5 years ago

      Naturally, man is hypocrite, the only way out is when God deliver us from this spirit of hypocrisy. It is a bad spirit and may hinder us to have intimate relationship with God. Through repentance and faith in God we can be what God want us to be. Bible says without Holiness no man shall see the Lord.

    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 5 years ago from Australia

      It takes self reflection Padiwan2 and the desire to not be the same as everyone else. Means you have to separate yourself out from the mob, from your parent's influence, the influence of your peers. And also to search for what you want and what you need - really really what you need and want. And it has naught to do with things - not really. Align yourself to your true desires and not those of someone else. You learn quickly you don't always get what you want, but at least being honest with the wanting in the first place helps. Being totally honest puts you in a place of heightened vulnerability - it's difficult. You have to stand by your choices regardless of every other force that goes against you.

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      Padiwan2 5 years ago

      I have been dubbed a hypocrite but I'd like to stop being one. How does one suggest that I do that?

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      Ida 5 years ago

      Hey your article is great. Sounds just like my brother in law. You should see the way he goes into hiding when it's his fault. When confronted, he either comes up with the silliest story or if cornered, starts throwing vulgarities at you. It's such a waste of everyone's time,

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      sakshi 5 years ago

      how to disclose that someone is hypocrite?

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      Nelson Cyprien 5 years ago

      Thanks to all of you, I ve been dealing with all of this in my family. Plus, I have realize to what degree I m a hypocrite and work towards improvements. Thank you again.

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      Wakaba- kenya 6 years ago

      I really like your article for tge reason that myself i an a hypocrite n i have to fight it mercilessly. It is also inspiration to change for the better.

    • Ahmad Usman profile image

      Ahmad Usman 7 years ago

      The Signs of hypocrite as explained by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are:

      1. Whenever he is entrusted, he proves dishonest.

      2. Whenever he speaks, he tells a lie.

      3. Whenever he promises, he breaks his promise.

      4. Whenever he quarrels, he behaves in a very imprudent, evil and insulting manner.

    • profile image

      E. Morales 7 years ago

      I have to be honest. I am a hypocrite and been trying to work on not being so. It really isn't easy and, there are times where I catch myself. These are the moments when I feel worse. Maybe it was something genetic or something that just grew over time, but I feel as if we are all hypocrites, to a degree. The first time I realized this was when I was about 13-years old, just starting to handle some responsibilites life throws at you. I found myself wanting others to like and accept me. Doing all that I could to make it happen. I would lie and not fess up to things that I did, just so others could see me as the 'good' one. Today, 17 years later, I have realized that I don't want to be like that anymore. It is hard, being truly honest. Failure and upsetting others come with the territory. But I would rather know that I am telling the truth and being my true self, instead of trying to make others see me as something I am not. In turn, you could say I am a sinner, and I accept it. I have sinned and feel horrible for it.

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      Umar gawuna 7 years ago

      A hypocrat is a person who betrayin his or her patner interm of day to day activities.

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      Ariell 8 years ago

      For me, sometimes you can't help it...but I find the biggest sign is when a person KEEPS PREACHING OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN certain values and doesn't uphold them themselves! It's better not to preach. Because if you preach, someone is eventually going to point out that you aren't perfect so to avoid that DON'T PREACH! Also, why try to be perfect? Suffering is a part of existence and the only way to gain wisdom.

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      Ariell 8 years ago

      I'll give a more CLEAR EXAMPLE of hypocrisy. Firstly - if you catch yourself being a hypocrite then it means you are truly self-aware. Yes, our culture is hypocritical but some people DO THIS to such an extreme as to think they are far more superior then anyone else on earth! Here is my example, I once knew a girl called Nicole. I soon grew sooooooo tired of her behavior as she thought she was far superior to me in every single way. After having arrived from an interview, I dressed appropriately for the occasion, she CHASTISHED me for "changing myself". I wore simple clothes: black pants and black top with red flowers imprinted upon it. Nothing fancy, nothing tacky. She looks at me and says "unlike you, I DON'T change myself to please people." That is how I normally dress! I wasn't trying to please anyone...she would say things like this ALL THE TIME and make me feel so horrible about myself that I was suicidal and depressed. She treated me horribly. She goes on and on about helping others and being supportive and yet she herself at times can be extremely rude and un-courteous. Another example is when she says "I don't care if I turn my headphones up loud even to the point it bothers the people sitting next to me." And yet, she moans about people not making room for her on the sidewalk! She'll say "my family makes me feel inferior, I'm gonna prove to them I'm gonna be a success". And yet, I'll do the same and she'll say "I totally disagree with you...don't change yourself to please them!" And yet she does it. She even had the nerve to say (in a sarcastic tone), "oh poor poor you for coming out all this way to see me" (which I don't mind because I'm a good friend). She always tries to prove how superior she is. She is patronizing and self-absorbed and incredibly narcissistic. She is an example of hypocrisy to an extreme and this is what needs to be avoided.

    • profile image

      Ariell 8 years ago


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      JK 8 years ago

      A good point of all this is that we need to look at our assumptions very closely. Another area that we need to look at is the link between self-censorsip in everyday life and hypocrisy. That's right, "self-censorsip in everyday life." oops !...... opened another can of worms!

    • marg07 profile image

      marg07 9 years ago from Australia

      You must get out from behind that rabbit mask Ceo!!!

      Parents should not chastise children for saying someone is fat or whatever as that is a child being honest and factual. As parents we should not punish children but rather explain how the person targeted may be upset by their words and therefore better to say nothing than something hurtful.

      Well - we'll never work all this out will we? As someone said above we are just too complicated for words.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 9 years ago from India

      None of us is born a hypocrite – we have hypocrisy thrust upon us. Remember how our parents corrected us for telling a lie and glared at us when we happened to comment on how fat/short/ugly someone was? There was always the devil to pay later! And we pass it on – bringing up our children the same way. Teaching them unwittingly, that there are degrees of hypocrisy – and truth be told, it really is just another word for dishonesty.

      So somewhere, the line between politeness and hypocrisy gets blurred and maybe we tend to ignore those little twinges of conscience by labeling what we do as polite or diplomatic!

      Should we change and rid ourselves of the cloak of hypocrisy? YES!!!

      Can we change? Now that is the question!!! And therein lies the problem. Who among us will look at their daughter all dressed up and not say, ‘You’re beautiful!’ even if she isn’t?

      Honesty … it’s not always accepted as such a lovely word you’ll find!

    • ceounlimited profile image

      ceounlimited 9 years ago from California

      Hey Marg07.... incognito... it's the only way to go :)

    • marg07 profile image

      marg07 9 years ago from Australia

      Actually Jewel I find it very hard to lie. I might talk around it but to outright lie I do find hard. It would be written all over my face.

      I love hubpages too Ceounlimited I must try and spend more time on them and really find how to utilise them properly. Must say you look like a bit of a rabbit !!!! I might replace my photo with a fairy picture or something........... Ha ha ha

    • ceounlimited profile image

      ceounlimited 9 years ago from California

      Hey Jewels I am happy for you and your early New Year's Resolution... Good Luck to you on that one... the majority of society is working against you... proceed with caution.

      And Marg07... I was getting ready to reply to you and I had to laugh at my hypocrisy... yes we all wear masks... that's why I love the internet and hubpages so much... where else can I make up a completely different name and have people acknowledge me by it and it be accepted as a norm.... Ha Ha! I guess we all have work ... huh


    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 9 years ago from Australia

      margo07, maybe not fear of reprisal consciously, but why is it easier to lie than tell the truth? We don't want the complication of being honest? Boy are we a complicated bunch. It's all about feelings at the end of the day.

    • marg07 profile image

      marg07 9 years ago from Australia

      Of course we all should strive to be better and not accept hypocrisy as a way of life. However these days from my observation we seem to be on a downhill spiral. We seem to live in a me me society. Maybe it's just that I am getting older. Ha!!

      I agree with Eddie we all wear a mask and you will never really change that. I have made humungous mistakes in my life and I like to think I am ethical and not so judgemental. But I guess I am guilty like everyone else!!

      We are all hypocrits that's for sure. I don't know if it is always fear of reprisal though all the time.

    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 9 years ago from Australia

      I'm for the change part ceo. It's not really acceptable to remain hypocrites. By the way, yes I am a hypocrite. I'm working on not being one, but in the process of shedding the traits I must put up my hand, stand on that podium and state: "Folks, my name is Jewels and I am a hypocrite? Have to do that in order to dismantle.

      Telling the truth. The little white lie. 99.9% of the population do it and it's joked about, it's 'normal.' Imagine what it would take to dismantle the trait of hypocracy. Why cover up what you are actually doing with a lie? What are you hiding? I suppose telling the boss the reason why I'm on the internet is because my job is boring me and I'd rather be doing something enjoyable. I guess the boss wouldn't appreciate that. Or maybe the boss would prefer being informed of job dissatisfaction. "Doubt I'll take that chance, so I'm thinking."

      Hypocrites cover their trail because of fear of reprisal, always. Maybe the bigger the hypocrite the longer the trail, as in the New York Times writer. Isn't that just lazy? There is so much truth to be written about for the sake of good reading, why make it up. Lazy hypocrite.

      The impatient hypocrite. He/She who couldn't be bothered giving way to traffic and then coyly flashes those eyelashes at the police officer writing the ticket. Impatient.

      Need more time - the list must be huge!

      I am now a reformed hypocrite after pursuing the 12 step program for hypocrites. From this day forward I resolve to speak my truth no matter how much you may not want to hear it. Ummmm!

    • ceounlimited profile image

      ceounlimited 9 years ago from California

      Hi Marg07, you know as I was reading your comment ... something within me stirred (maybe is was what I ate) no, um it is almost as if we accept hypocrisy as a way of life. Should we? Or should we put forth effort to bring about a change?

    • marg07 profile image

      marg07 9 years ago from Australia

      Human beings are human beings and never cease to amaze.

      In reference to your mum's comment it's amazing how people with the gift of the gab do seem, on the whole, to do a lot better in life.

      Nothing is black and white. I do think there are always ways around things as in the mother who is looking tired, wrinkled and overweight - there is usually something positive you can say without an outright lie as in "that dress really looks good on you" - if it does of course. If not the dress than something else positive.

      Maybe a lot of hypocrisy are survival skills in action!

      Hypocrisy fits all levels. What about the manipulation of the markets in the US currently at the moment and it appears it's coming from the good old trusted banks!! What a joke and they are ripping off the little people who are already struggling.

    • ceounlimited profile image

      ceounlimited 9 years ago from California

      Thank you for taking the time to read this hub.

      Hi Karen, I realized what a can of worms I was opening as I began working on this hub and it just kept growing. I am not sure that incorporating "degrees" of hypocrisy would make the lack of integrity less of an issue. If we were to vote in a gauge of hypocrisy how would we measure what is better and what is worse. Also, who or what group would have the final say. Would there be an award for the "most hypocritical" of the year. (I'm being silly) But measuring the intent is something that individuals should not have the responsibility of doing especially if we are all hypocrites to a "degree". Maybe if we all made ourselves a committee of one and decided to work on our own integrity an improvement would begin.

      Hey Eddie, you said, "the answer is to confess it to Him and start fresh... constantly" what about the people who do not hear that confession to "God" but have heard your professions and accusations. Not only that but they have observed the inconsistancies of word and actions... Is there a way to rectify the damage? I have found that theory is one thing and reality another creature.

      Again, I really appreciate both of your comments and encouragement... but I must admit ... I enjoy exchanges in philosophy, so please let me know what you're thinking... honestly! :)

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      Eddie Perkins 9 years ago

      Being a good “honest” Christian man…

      Very Thought Provoking Message.  I agree with Karen. We are all hypocrites to some degree – we all wear mask to look good on the outside. The problem is in the heart – we know it, but so does God. The answer is to confess it to Him and start fresh – constantly.  If I can, I’ll write you about the perfect purity in this matter when I have a new body.  However, I do appreciate the thought provoking material. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading. Thumbs up! ~ eddie

    • Karen LaVelle profile image

      Karen LaVelle 9 years ago from Texas

      Could be that there are degrees of hipocrisy!  Who in our culture has never done similar to some of your very good examples?  Could it be that it is expected of us to be hyprocrites and therefore, even the best of us, given certain situations behave in a hypicritical manner?

      This is a great hub!  Makes me pause and THINK.  If you tell your mother that she looks wonderful today, and she is 50 pounds over weight, has wrinkles of 80 years of living, and Really looks tired because she has been sick for a week or so, does that mean you are a hypocrite?  I do wonder.  If so, guess I, too, must wear that label!  You keep on writing stuff like this...any thing that makes people stop and think is always a good thing.  I'm a fan, now!

      Karen LaVelle