A few years ago, Congressman Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas, was caught sending lurid videos of himself to several women while he was still married to his second wife. Many were quick to point out the hypocrisy of his pro-family values stance.

But they did this not to attack the character of the person for what they did, but to attack the original belief they espoused. In this case, it’s not that the Congressman was of questionable character for attempting an affair, but who was he to judge others in the first place? To some, all conservatives are judgmental hypocrites.

The truth is that while he made a poor decision borne of bad judgment, his opposition to adultery was still correct.

Conservatives believe in stigmas. They believe in demonizing and harshly judging immoral or destructive behavior. But they don’t do it to punish those who’ve made poor decisions. They do it to prevent people from making the same poor decisions.

While Conservatives are pro-shame and pro-stigma, they are also tolerant and fair when it’s time to face the consequences.

In most surveys of who gives the most money and time to charitable causes, self-described conservatives are routinely the top givers. And while it is religious and faith-based groups that conduct some of the most public judging of societal behavior, they also do more than the government to help the very people they are judging – whether it be homeless, AIDS victims, the hungry, adopted children, women who’ve had abortions, convicted felons, or any number of other shunned groups.

Conservatives are trying to create a climate that pressures individuals to make moral and smart choices, but, at the same time, they are there to support those who stray. And when they do, those people are going to need a support network to make the best of the situation as quickly as possible so they can return to being productive members of society.

Conservatives believe this because they understand, as did the founders, that people are not perfect and will make mistakes. In fact, our entire governmental structure was founded on the idea that people are not angels and need checks and balances.