Chaplain Norris Burkes  10-15-17 (copy)

Chaplain Norris Burkes. Photo by Wade Spees. June 6, 2014.

Have you ever noticed a resemblance between the church hypocrite and gym hypocrite?

It’s said that the church hypocrite is a “seasonal saint” who comes to church only on Christmas and Easter. They come to be seen in their finest new clothes.

Much like those at the church, the gym hypocrite thinks only about fitness after the big eating holidays. They work out in their designer fitness clothes only to look good for the swim suit season.

During a 1999 deployment to Saudi Arabia, I lived the life of a gym hypocrite. I only worked out to stave off the effects of my daily gorge of mess hall food.

One cool day in January, instead of dressing in shorts, I walked to the gym in a new matching two-piece workout suit. It was Super Bowl Sunday and only a few people were in the gym. The machines were wide open so I flew from one to the other working on my “Body by Jake.”

Within a few minutes, I peeled off my workout jacket. Still hot, I plopped myself in front of a huge factory fan. For some reason, the fan could not muster enough bluster to cool down this gym customer, so I put my thumb in the waistband of my runner's pants and slid them down to my knees.

There, sitting on that bench, I was suddenly much cooler than I had expected. The hair on my thighs was vibrating like palm leaves in a hurricane. Looking down, I recalled that I had opted out of wearing gym shorts underneath. 

Needless to say, I couldn't have pulled those pants up any faster than if I had been sitting atop a fire ant hill.

So, what did I learn?

First, if you are going to pull your pants down in a public place, make sure there is a distraction in the room — preferably a football game or breaking news on TV that will steer all eyes away from your geekish, farmer-tanned legs.

Second, mom was good to advise you to always wear good underwear. What if you have to go to the hospital or if you decide to pull your pants down in a public place?

But, last and most important, there will always be hypocrites in both the church and the gym. I suppose that’s why I spend so much time in both and include myself among the best of them.

But I think that’s OK because I see hypocrites as people who understand the tension of their discrepancy. They realize they are not who they should be, so they keep trying to be what they ought to be. In short, they don’t give up on themselves.

Hypocrites want badly to be someone better than they have been. So they choose to live with criticisms from those who will inevitably catch them with their pants down.

They live with the frustration of being one thing while striving to become another. They hope someday to morph into the honest likeness of the person they are currently pretending to be.

If my gym experience taught me anything, it’s that I must forgive and overlook the faults of others lest I risk becoming the biggest hypocrite of all.

That’s why when people complain of too many hypocrites in the gym or the church, I never miss the opportunity to tell them that we have room for one more — you.

Perhaps I will see you at the gym next week? If so, I promise you won’t see too much of me.

Contact Norris Burkes at norris@thechaplain.net, (843) 608-9715 or @chaplain.

Reach Robert Behre at 843-937-5771. Follow him on Twitter @RobertFBehre.