We are a lip-service people. Both as individuals and as a society, we solemnly proclaim belief in and adherence to one thing while doing the exact opposite. There is, far too often, only the most flimsy connection between our words and our actions. Generally, lip service is basically harmless; it's something everyone does. But it covers a very broad spectrum from the generally harmless—almost a natural reaction—to calculatedly cynical and hypocritical.
Paying lip service to something is, for the most part, a form of taking the path of least resistance. We claim to believe things simply because, whether we honestly believe them to be true or not, we acknowledge that everyone else seems to believe them, and we don't want to rock the boat or risk calling attention to ourselves by standing out too far from the crowd. Standing out from the crowd makes one vulnerable and a potential target, like a wildebeest who strays too far from the herd. Few people want to be targets.
Lip service also provides protective coloration, offering a large tree behind which we can hide our true thoughts and feelings. And there are those who can delude themselves into confusing lip service with truth. Bigots, for example, almost always vehemently deny they are bigots. Religious zealots loudly and piously proclaim their fealty to the written tenets of their faith while totally ignoring and violating them. Muslim extremists have done perhaps irreparable harm to the religion they slavishly defend, often to the death of themselves and others. Christian extremists are somewhat less dismissive of their own lives, but still only slightly less reprehensible. Those who most strongly avow their allegiance to the Bible are often the very ones who do the most undermine it. They seem to have the astonishing ability to overlook such insignificant-to-them little precepts as "Love thy neighbor," "Do unto others as you would have done unto you," "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone," and "Judge not lest ye be judged."
Corporations, which differ from religious zealots only in that the deity they worship is Mammon rather than God or Allah, have made an art out of saying one thing and doing another. ("Your call is very important to us," and "...where you, the customer, are our primary concern" spring to mind. Few if any of them even bother, anymore, to pay lip service to "the customer is always right." I suspect when they try to say that, they burst into uproarious laughter.)
Lip service is the cornerstone of politics. Politicians regularly and unctuously pay lip service to any widely held belief they think might win them votes while, while subverting it for their own ends. Tea Partiers want to "take back our country" to its constitutional roots, but want to rid the Constitution of those parts they find bothersome.
On a personal, individual level, lip service is sometimes the only logical way of dealing with matters one is truly unable to comprehend. I pay lip service to—that is, I can accept, albeit with great reluctance—the belief that one is only as old as one feels, and that age doesn't matter. I can even say my age aloud, but though I say it in English, it might as well be Swahili. The words strike my ear, but not my mind. Try as I might, I simply cannot believe it because it can't be true. And you'll notice I'm not saying it here. It's not a matter of being coy, it's simply a matter of sincere incomprehensibility.
So, lip service, universally used and universally ignored, is simply yet another little device we humans use to try to make some sense and order out of what is too often a senseless and chaotic existence. It is one thin thread in the rope we have spun as a race to tether ourselves to reality. I just wish the rope were stronger, and that it didn’t so easily become a noose.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).