That’s Bert at left, at his meeting.
Good evening, and welcome to Hypocrites Anonymous.
My name is Bert, and I’m a hypocrite.
(Audience: Welcome, Bert.)
I’m also a therapist.
I’ve been a hypocrite for as long as I can remember.
Well, at least as long as I’ve been a therapist.
I don’t mean to blame the job for my hypocrisy. But hypocrisy does sort of come with it.
Because therapists are like priests.
Priests have to pretend to be Holier Than Thou. Who’d listen to them otherwise?
Therapists have to pretend to be Healthier than Thou.
Who’d listen to us otherwise?
So every day I sit with people who come for help with their problems, and part of the helping is pretending to be healthier than them.
I offer calm when they’re anxious, clarity when they’re clueless, courage when they’re scared.
Strength when they’re weak, hope when they’re hopeless, honesty when they lie.
Directness when they’re avoiding, forgiveness when they’re guilty, and kindness when they beat themselves up.
In fact, you could say it’s my job to offer the opposite of whatever people bring me.
Friends, this is not as easy as it sounds.
But it’s what we all do, right?
We all pretend to be Something or Somebody Else.
Is there anyone here who doesn’t pretend that?
(All hands in the room go up.)
Oh. I get it. This is a Hypocrites Anonymous meeting.
(Everyone laughs and applauds.)
Anyway. My most recent relapse into hypocrisy is my failure at self-care.
Self-care is something I preach to all my clients. Most of them have trouble with self-care. Most of them don’t love themselves enough to stop working and rest and relax. Most of them put the needs of their job or their family or their house or their spouse ahead of their own.
And I have this thing I say to the most stubborn clients.
“You remind me,” I tell them, “of a guy I know who wants to drive from New York to California. Except he says, ‘Gas is too expensive, so I won’t buy gas here. I’ll wait to buy gas when I get out to the coast.’
“You’re like that guy,” I say. “And you better stop and gas up now, or you won’t make California. You’ll be lucky to make New Jersey.”
(Murmurs of agreement.)
Well, tonight I have to confess: I’m out of gas. I’m stuck in New Jersey.
I’m tired, and discouraged, and I need a real rest. And I find I can’t stop working.
Despite everything I know, or thought I knew, I have been sucked into the great mass of Workaholics in this country.
In fact, that’s the meeting I’m headed to after this one.
(Appreciative laughter. One voice: “Can I catch a ride?”)
This is very embarrassing to me. It galls me to admit I’m not Healthier Than Thou.
But: I’m not.
I’m just like Thou.
I’m just like my clients.
I’m just like everyone:
My life is unmanageable.
Thanks for listening.
(Bert sits. Thunderous applause.)
* * *
There is, however, a real Workaholics Anonymous.
Visit their website and you’ll find an interesting self-quiz titled“Twenty Questions: How Do I Know If I’m a Workaholic?” It begins like this:
Do you get more excited about your work than about family or anything else?
Are there times when you can charge through your work and other times when you can’t?
Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?
Is work the activity you like to do best and talk about most?
Do you work more than 40 hours a week?
I’m guessing your answers to these first five questions will tell you whether you need to go on and complete the quiz.