Sincerity is defined as: simplicity, purity, naïveté, veracity, a way to express oneself free of pretense. A sincere person is the one that expresses himself without deceitfulness, in a truthful and genuine way, that does not pretend. The opposite of this quality is to pretend something that one really does not feel, for example, to say something to please others when we really do not feel it. From an early age, it is necessary to teach children to be sincere, this is one of the most needed qualities in our present society, it is for that reason that schools must set out to educate sincere boys and men, girls and women. However, in early childhood the children are used to imagining things that they accept as certain and that do not constitute lies, but only the difficulty to differentiate between what is perceived in reality and what is imaginary. This must be clearly understood by teachers in order not to consider as an insincere youth conduct what is a simple confusion of reality versus imagination in the young person’s reality. In addition, examples set by adults is tremendously important in the formation of this value: If the child or the girl observes and is aware that parents, teachers, coaches, youth pastors or other older people are not sincere, they will tend to accept those incorrect patterns as good, and they can take up insincere conducts over sincerity.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”People hate sincerity because it threatens that horrid structure they’re maintaining in their whole social lives.” author=”Thanos Grigoriou”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.” author=”Socrates”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”An ad that pretends to be art is — at absolute best — like somebody who smiles warmly at you only because he wants something from you. This is dishonest, but what’s sinister is the cumulative effect that such dishonesty has on us: since it offers a perfect facsimile or simulacrum of goodwill without goodwill’s real spirit, it messes with our heads and eventually starts upping our defenses even in cases of genuine smiles and real art and true goodwill. It makes us feel confused and lonely and impotent and angry and scared. It causes despair.” author=”David Foster Wallace”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Be sincere, Be brief, Be seated.” author=”Franklin D. Roosevelt”/]
Most scholars state that sincerity from sincere is derived from the Latin sincerus meaning clean, pure, sound. Sincerus may have once meant “one growth” (not mixed), from sin- (one) and crescere (to grow). Crescere is cognate with “Ceres,” the goddess of grain, as in “cereal.” The Latin word sincerus is derived from the Indo-European root sm̥kēros, itself derived from the zero-grade of sem (one) and the suffixed, lengthened e-grade of ker (grow), generating the underlying meaning of one growth, hence pure, clean.
An often repeated folk etymology proposes that sincere is derived from the Latin sine = without, cera = wax. According to one popular explanation, dishonest sculptors in Rome or Greece would cover flaws in their work with wax to deceive the viewer; therefore, a sculpture “without wax” would mean honesty in its perfection. Another explanation is that without wax etymology “is derived from a Greeks-bearing-gifts story of deceit and betrayal. For the feat of victory, the Romans demanded the handing over of obligatory tributes. Following bad advice, the Greeks resorted to some faux-marble statues made of wax, which they offered up as tribute. These promptly melted in the warm Greek sun.
Sincerity has not been consistently regarded as a virtue in Western culture. First discussed by Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics, it resurfaced to become an ideal (virtue) in Europe and North America in the 17th century; and it gained considerable momentum during the Romantic movement, when sincerity was first celebrated as an artistic and social ideal. Indeed, in middle to late nineteenth century America, sincerity was an idea reflected in mannerisms, hairstyles, women’s dress, and the literature of the time. According to Aristotle “truthfulness or sincerity is a desirable mean state between the deficiency of irony or self-deprecation and the excess of boastfulness.
Beyond the Western culture, sincerity is notably developed as a virtue in Confucian societies (China, Korea, and Japan). The concept of chéng as expounded in two of the Confucian classics, the Da Xue and the Zhong Yong is generally translated as sincerity. As in the west, the term implies a congruence of avowal and inner feeling, but inner feeling is in turn ideally responsive to ritual propriety and social hierarchy. Specifically, Confucian’s Analects contains the following statement “Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles. Then no friends would not be like yourself (all friends would be as loyal as yourself). If you make a mistake, do not be afraid to correct it.” Thus, even today, a powerful leader will praise leaders of other realms as “sincere” to the extent that they know their place. In Japanese the character for cheng may be pronounced makoto, and carries still more strongly the sense of loyal avowal and belief.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Be what you would seem to be – or, if you’d like it put more simply – never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.” author=”Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”I’m a bona fide bon vivant. Tonight, I gave the toast. I told everyone it was spread with butter, but it was actually margarine.” author=”Benson Bruno”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”A worship without love, an unfeeling act, behold, my brothers, is a pictured loveliness– No joy in its embrace; a painted sugarcane– No relish in its taste. O Lord, without sincerity is no piety.” author=”Hinduism”/]
FAIN, FEIGN, AND SINCERITY
Here are a couple of outdated words in the English language that I think we should bring back and use more.
Fain: to want, to desire, to be compelled to do, and Feign: to pretend or act.
Some of my favorite writings are those of Blasé Pascal (1623-1662), a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and philosopher. On man’s hatred of the truth regarding our own character he writes:[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Man would fain be great and sees that he is little; would fain be happy and sees that he is miserable; would fain be perfect and sees that he is full of imperfections; would fain be the object of love and esteem of men, and sees that his faults merit only their aversion and contempt. The embarrassment wherein he finds himself produces in him the most unjust and criminal passions imaginable, for he conceives a mortal hatred against the truth which blames him and convinces him of his faults.” author=”Blasé Pascal”/]
We are so embarrassed by the truth of our own shortcomings that it produces in us the most unjust and criminal passions imaginable. These unjust and criminal passions manifest themselves as pride, greed, vanity, lust, apathy, envy, wrath, anger, rage, and violence. We lash out with lying tongues, hurt innocent people, devise wicked plots, run to trouble, become deceitful witnesses, and sow discord where ever we go.
Even worse, we look in the mirror and deny the truth about ourselves. We pretend, we feign rather than act with sincerity.
Sometimes we behave like hypocrites. The word “hypocrite” derives from the Greek word for acting or pretending. Webster’s defines hypocrisy as “feigning to be what one is not.” Nothing is more self-draining than hypocrisy. It takes a lot of spiritual energy to keep that “mask” on all the time. When our public persona contradicts what we know to be true when we look at ourselves in the mirror, we bleed. The spiritual hemorrhaging can be difficult to stop.
Sometimes we become “con men”. Con men understand trust and human nature very well. From the word “confidence,” they gain our trust in order to violate it. They feign one agenda, to exact another. We have all known people whom we admired and trusted, until they violated that trust. It hurts.
Sometimes we throw stones. We are so embarrassed by our own faults, rather than deal with our own iniquities; we choose to re-direct our attention towards others. Because each of us is imperfect, finding fault in others is a classic pot-calling-the-kettle-black form of hypocrisy.
And finally, many of us react to our shortcomings with Self-destructive behavior. Self-destructive behavior is often a form of self-punishment in response to personal failures, which may be real or perceived. We take to heart our own negative self-talk and or negative affirmations by others. We punish ourselves in response to the feign persona that others may have created of us.
Real sincerity means forgiving ourselves and humbling ourselves in the face of our human errors. Real sincerity means looking our faults right in the eye, the failures that are left over without any excuse after all allowances have been made, and seeing our faults in all their horror, dirt, meanness, and malice. Then forgiving ourselves and reconciling ourselves to change, to reformation, to being more virtuous.
Then we will be free to live life with more sincerity and the ensuing peace it can bring our soul.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Go put your creed into your deed.” author=”Ralph Waldo Emerson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”By the Truth I mean purity and sincerity in their highest degree. He who lacks purity and sincerity cannot move others. Therefore he who forces himself to lament, though he may sound sad, will awaken no grief. He who forces himself to be angry, though he may sound fierce, will arouse no awe. And he who forces himself to be affectionate, though he may smile, will create no air of harmony. True sadness need make no sound to awaken grief; true anger need not show itself to arouse awe; true affection need not smile to create harmony. When a man has the Truth within himself, his spirit may move among external things. That is why the Truth is to be prized!” author=”Taoism”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Politeness. The most acceptable hypocrisy.” author=”Ambrose Bierce”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” author=”Nathaniel Hawthorne”/]
What does it mean to be sincere?
Sincerity of feeling, intent and presentation touches the hearts of everyone. People intuitively know when your are being sincere and genuine. But what exactly defines sincerity? And how do you achieve it? No better formula exists for sincerity than to be sincere by just “being yourself” rather than trying to project something that you are not.
Act the same way alone as you do when in the presence of others. This is the real you and this is the person that people will warm to and trust. If you try too hard to be what you think other people want to see in you, the result will not be sincere and you will spend a lot of time projecting a persona that is not a real part of yourself. That is not only hard work but is ultimately insincere.
Do things out of the goodness of your heart; don’t seek a reward or do things to acquire things from people. When you give without expecting the boomerang effect to occur, the giving becomes an act of sincerity and an expression of your genuine concern for and interest in others. A heart that is worn on the sleeve is evident to others, and people who do this will engender a sense of rapport with others.
Understand that sincerity comes from the heart. Whatever you do or say, it is vital to mean to do or say it and to back it up with your beliefs. You cannot be sincere if you say you like chocolate when you hate it. You cannot be sincere when you compliment someone but deep inside you detest him or her. You cannot be sincere when you apologize just for the sake of disarming the person that you offended, with the motive of future revenge, but you can be sincere if you are truthful to yourself.
Don’t do it or say it, unless you believe it from your heart. If you are placed in a situation that requires you to offer compliments or to express your opinions and tastes but you feel hampered by “white lies”, there is an easy solution to this. Only choose the truths. For example, if you are called upon to give a speech about a person who is someone you would rather not be anywhere near ordinarily, choose things about that person that are good. List at least three things which you know to be good about that person and develop your speech around the good points. This will help you to speak genuinely and from the heart.
Realize that sincerity can expose you. Opening up to others about your feelings, motives and aspirations can cause some people to react in insincere ways and to try and drag you down. If you are forearmed to expect this possibility, then it will come as less of a shock. Remain calm and non-confrontational when faced with such responses. There are reasons such as insecurity and anger that lie behind the inability of some people to cope with sincerity and to abuse you for it.
Use positive affirmations. Always seek the good in you, in others, in situations. Try to place yourself in the other person’s shoes to see where they are coming from. When negative connotations arise, use your positive affirmations to override the negatives and to try to find the silver lining in any situation. Sincerity thrives on effort to think the right way.
Don’t over-polish things. Sincerity is about immediacy, spontaneity, spur-of-the moment responses that well up from your genuine self. Polishing responses (whether by e-mail, speech, letter or otherwise) often removes the sincerity and replaces it with overlays of caution, attempted perfectionism and maybe even sugar-coating. The difference is detectable by the recipient and can mean the difference between you getting that deadline shifted, getting that job, getting that understanding you so very much need… or not.
Be hospitable and lack material neediness. Sincerity is advanced when you are open to having others in your life and when you do not feel a need to compare yourself with what others have and what you do not. Material neediness destroys the ability to be sincere because your focus is always on protecting your possessions and aiming to accumulate more instead of looking outwards into the human community around you and perceiving the ways in which you can add substance to it through the goodness of your heart. Learn to let go of this neediness and learn to open your heart to people and your community. In that way, sincerity will become second nature.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”The hypocrite’s crime is that he bears false witness against himself. What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one. Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core. ” author=”Hannah Arendt”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Mind is the forerunner of all evil states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with wicked mind, because of that suffering follows one, even as the wheel (of the cart) follows the hoof of the draught ox. Mind is the forerunner of all good states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with pure mind, because of that happiness follows one, even as one’s shadow that never leaves.” author=”Buddhism”/]
Sincerity In Packaging
Have you checked the labels on your grocery items lately? You may be getting less than you thought. According to U.S. News & World Report, some manufacturers are selling us the same size packages we are accustomed to, but they are putting less of the product in the box. For example, a box of well-known detergent that once held 61 ounces now contains only 55. Same size box, less soap. How something is wrapped doesn’t always show us what’s on the inside. That’s true with people as well. We can wrap ourselves up in the same packaging every day — nice clothes, big smile, friendly demeanor — yet still be less than what we appear to be.
Sincerity is generally understood to be truth in word and act. One who means what he says is a sincere person. One who does not mean what he says is not a sincere man, and is perhaps even a hypocrite. Because of its purity the term ‘sincerity’ has endeared itself to us. We love sincere people. We also love to be known as sincere people.
As man is constituted, each part of his being – mind, emotions, etc. – is independent and is not necessarily influenced by the growth of any other part. If we could integrate the different parts of our personality, every part would then be raised to the level of the central growth. A person is integrated if his emotions are rational and social to the same extent as his mind. His sincerity is partial if it is limited to the mind and external manners.
By ‘sincere’ we understand that the man acts according to his conscience. If he acts according to the dictates of his conscience, we accept his sincerity. In that case, he is sincere to himself. In society this is acceptable as sincerity, but this may be wrong. Suppose an administrator feels that according to his sincere conscience the clerk has to be treated as a second-class citizen, he may be sincere but the world outside may not accept it. He may be sincere but his own conscience may be undeveloped. It is not enough to act according to the conscience; the conscience must also be virtuous. Being cultured is a social concept. Being virtuous is a moral concept. Both are good in themselves, as sufficient guides to men in society. But there is a deeper reference, and that is the inner being, the soul. Sincerity means to act according to the dictates of the inner divine, to obey the Divine Will. Any other reference like morality, society, conscience etc. is not sufficiently high.
There are also different levels of sincerity according to the different parts of the being. There is mental sincerity, vital sincerity and the sincerity of the body. Mental sincerity means to understand and accept in the mind the highest ideals of the inner Divine. The mind has a personality of its own, its own beliefs, preferences, traditions, habits, etc. A person may want to dedicate himself to a very high ideal but the mind may not be able to accept. The nerves, otherwise known as ‘vital’, also have their own personality. The body has an equally powerful one, perhaps more powerful. Each of them have developed on their own and retain their individuality.
Of all the levels of sincerity, mental sincerity is the easiest. If we leave aside blatantly insincere people such as liars, clever crooks, etc. and consider only those who consider themselves to be sincere, and really examine their beliefs, several facets of sincerity will emerge. One can sincerely believe in a false idea. Many sincere people have a strong belief even though the belief is not true. This belief stands in the way of their progress. Some of these may be: 1) my country’s culture is the best in the world; 2) because a person is my friend, he must be trusted by everyone, etc. Sincerity should also be rational and intelligent and not foolish. It is not enough to be sincere, you must also be right.
A certain wrong belief about our-selves can have tragic consequences for our growth. An insincere employee is perhaps able, by his cleverness, to convince his boss that he is easily the best in the world and indispensable to the institution. Sometimes he comes to believe himself in his ‘ability’. If he is a sensitive man, capable of further progress in life, this belief acts like a black cover over his soul and prevents him from any progress. Sometimes people wrongly believe, in all sincerity, that their spouse is the cause of all their problems. But the problems they encounter in life, the blocks to their success, are really centered in themselves. These people lose a golden opportunity for progress. Their false view of themselves allows them to even commit outrages on the society. It does not matter they fool others, but it is a pity they fool themselves. We can call them sincerely insincere people. Most of us have such a streak in one thing or another. Unless and until we come forward to shed this aspect of sincere insincerity, the inner light will not shine forth.
It is open to everyone to make his sincerity greater and greater every day. One can start by being guided by his conscience and becoming conscientious. One bases his sincerity of right information and socially acceptable intelligence, not sincere foolishness. Horizontally one can extend the domain of his sincerity to other similar areas of life and existence. Vertically he can raise the quality of sincerity by extending it to events of greater significance. Sincerity made perfect at the level of conscience, extended horizontally to cover all our life activities and vertically to act in important events of our life will be a sincerity of power and value.
If what is of value to you inwardly is also recognized by the society as valuable in their eyes, your sincerity reaches a second peak in the mountain chain of human progress.
Virtue is a great thing for society. If one raises his own sincerity to fulfill the moral requirements of honesty, veracity, purity, etc., etc. it will result in another crown for the inner jewel of sincerity.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” author=”Jesus Christ”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”We should examine ourselves and learn what is the affection and purpose of the heart, for in this way only can we learn what we honestly are.” author=”Christian”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Most of us are aware of and pretend to detest the barefaced instances of that hypocrisy by which men deceive others, but few of us are upon our guard or see that more fatal hypocrisy by which we deceive and over-reach our own hearts.” author=”Laurence Sterne, 1760″/]
The painted hypocrites are known through the disguise they wear.
Their lifted eyes salute the skies, their bending knees the ground;
But God abhors the sacrifice where not the heart is found.
By Brett and Cate McKay
At the heart of sincerity is honesty in all your conduct and especially your communications. Seek sincerity in all your communications by becoming a person who keeps confidences, curbs their sarcasm, and avoids dishonesty.
Gossip and Keeping Confidences
Most people would never dream of robbing a bank or stealing their friends’ possessions. But many are far less careful with an equally valuable piece of property: private information. No matter how the information came to you, the sacredness of information in your possession should be closely guarded. You should consider the confidential information given you as money in a trust; you are the guardian, but you are not allowed to spend it. It is rare today to meet a person with whom you can share your private thoughts and know absolutely that that information will never leave the room. Be that person. Be a vault.
Gossip can hurt both you and the person you choose to talk about in several ways:
If you are someone who talks behind people’s backs, even those who like you will come to mistrust you. When you hear a person slandering someone else when that person is not present, you are forced to wonder what that person says about you, when you are not around.
Gossip is inherently unfair. People should always seek to be just in their dealings with others. But when you gossip, you sully a person’s name without that person being present and allowed to defend them selves. Your reputation is important to you; show that same respect for the reputation of others by refusing to tear them down when they can’t fight back.
Gossip can ruin people’s reputations. Sometimes even information you are sure at the time is true, turns out to be faulty. Nevertheless, the damage is done and people’s perceptions of a person may be forever altered.
How to Keep Confidences
Determine whether or not a piece of information can be passed on or not. Gossip does not have to be false to be gossip. Gossip can be true, yet still no one’s business. If you are not sure if something can be shared or not, ask yourself these questions:
- Is it true?
- Is it kind?
- Is it necessary?
If you can answer yes to all three, then go ahead. If not? Keep your mouth shut.
But what if others press you to reveal something secret that you know? I recommend the following as an excellent retort: Draw the information seeker close to you and whisper, “Can you keep a secret?” Your friend will then answer, “Certainly!” At this point put your hand on his shoulder and say, “Well, so can I.” End of conversation.
Tone Down Your Sarcasm
When sarcasm becomes excessive it can hurt you and others around you for the following reasons:
Sarcasm is often the refuge of the weak and is employed by people who are too weak to say what is really on their minds.
According to Psychology Today: “Though they may not be aware of it, sarcasm is their means of indirectly expressing aggression toward others and insecurity about themselves. Wrapping their thoughts in a joke shields them from the vulnerability that comes with directly putting one’s opinions out there. “Sarcastic people protect themselves by only letting the world see a superficial part of who they are,” says Steven Stosny, a Washington, D.C.-based therapist and anger specialist. “They’re very into impression management.”
Sarcasm can hurt people’s feelings. It’s often a fine line between good natured ribbing and a really stinging comment. While you know you are only joking, others might take what you say to heart.
Sarcasm is too easy. Sarcasm is often used as a cop-out when a person cannot formulate a well-reasoned opinion.
In the area of lying, most people do alright when it comes to blatantly fabricating pieces of information. But it is the more insidious lying that is harder to master. In our looks, in our tone, in what parts of a story we leave in and what parts we leave out, we may still be being dishonest. I often hear someone say, “No I didn’t lie to him. I just didn’t tell him everything that happened.” This is still a lie.
Lying is easy to rationalize, especially when telling the truth will bring upon us negative consequences. But we must strive for complete honesty. If you start telling small lies, it becomes easier to rationalize the bigger ones. And if you are almost always honest, and yet are caught but once in a lie, people will question both your past actions and your future remarks. You integrity and trustworthiness will have been effectively shot.
But what about lies to preserve people’s feelings?
This is the age old question. What do you say when your wife asks you if she looks fat in something, and she does? How about if she gets a horrendous haircut and she wants to know if you like it? If you are breaking up with a woman and it’s because she is annoying or shallow, should you tell her the truth?
Telling these “white lies” present sticky judgment calls. The right answer varies from situation to situation. A certain amount of white lying is necessary to maneuver at home, in society, and in the workplace. The problem with telling white lies is that while they may flatter a person in the short term, they hurt the person in the long term. Take the example of the bad haircut. If everyone tells a woman that it looks fantastic, she will keep on getting the same horrendous haircut.
The Concept of Sincerity
The concept of sincerity is often associated with the idea of veracity or truth-telling. The reason for this association is that when speakers are sincere, their statements are intended to convey the truth of what they believe. Sincerity, on this view, re-quires correspondence between what people say, what they intend to say, and what they believe.
The conditions of correspondence and intentionality are captured in the following definition of sincerity:
(S1): If A says that p, A is sincere if and only if (i) A intends to say that p and (ii) A believes that p.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Sincerity is the way of heaven.” author=”Confucius”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Sincerity is the key which will open the door through which you will see your separate parts, and you will see something quite new. You must go on trying to be sincere. Each day you put on a mask, and you must take it off little by little.” author=”GI Gurdjieff”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”My brother adopted a snake named Slinky, whose most disagreeable trait was eating live mice. Once I was pressed into going to the pet store to buy Slinky’s dinner. The worst part of this wasn’t choosing the juiciest-looking creatures or turning down the clerk who wanted to sell me vitamins to ensure their longevity. The hardest part was carrying the poor things out in a box bearing the words ”Thank you for giving me a home.”” author=”Joanne Mitchell”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Sincerity does not and cannot substitute for truth.” author=”Jimmy Pritchard”/]
Sincerity is the supreme test today, and what is demanded of everyone is not that he should hold the right view but that he should hold some views sincerely. Therefore, it is not uncommon to hear a phrase like this at the end of a discussion: “Of course, I did not agree with him, but that does not matter. He was obviously sincere.” It may not be said in exactly those words, but that is the idea defending these people who are promoting what is politically correct. For example, “global warming” is now being changed to “climate change,” because they were so obviously exposed for their incorrect term global warming when the temperatures cooled. There are thirty thousand scientists that have signed a statement that global warming is one of the biggest scams to ever hit earth. Nine thousand of them have PhDs. There is plenty of truth behind them, but none of them will be given any voice in the media. This position has doubtless come about largely as a reaction to certain conditions that previously existed. That is just pop-culture reaction against mere theology, mere knowledge, mere morality, and mere truth.
The average person today hates insincerity and hypocrisy. He detests that type of person. He loathes the kind of individual whose morality is only skin deep and whose religion seems to be confined to only one day in seven. We have confusion in society, and that makes it tough to argue certain points. He feels that far too much of that kind of intellectual interest in religion and theology fails to express itself in practice. “Let a man’s view be what it may; only let it be sincere,” is the attitude of the pop-culture today. Thus, we see pop-culture criticizing those who are moral for not being sincere when they see hypocrisy in their lives.
Belief without honesty and morality without willpower are to the average person today the great evils. What is needed above all else, he feels, is genuineness, sincerity, a passion for rightness, whatever specific views one may hold. Of course, they must be the prevailing worldviews.
Sincerity is essential; without it we cannot hope to arrive at the truth. The sincerity I speak of in that sense is godly sincerity. We have a contrast between worldly sincerity and godly sincerity, and there is a major difference. The insincere person cannot defend it. To say that sincerity and truth are identical is to fall into an error just as dangerous as to hold the truth insincerely.
The world’s objection that it is not quite fair to accuse society of believing that it does not matter what our ultimate view and idea may be so long as we are sincere is countered with the defense that the dominant view is really not that sincerity and zeal are in and of themselves the object of worship, but rather that the view is that sincerity is a guarantee of truth, that any view held quite sincerely must therefore be right. The argument is that, if we seek truth and reality sincerely, our very sincerity is a guarantee that we will ultimately arrive at our goal. This is a common humanly-reasoned fallacy.
The error here is greater than one might think. It does affect every single area of life, small and large. It is the error of thinking and imagining that it is one of the functions of zeal and sincerity to determine the rightness or wrongness of the ultimate goal and of the direction that we are traveling, but that is not their function at all. Their business is to help us to arrive at that goal. Sincerity and zeal are to people what gasoline is to the car. They are nothing more than expressions of power and are therefore in no way competent to decide or to determine the right or wrong turns along the road, but that is exactly how they are being used today: to manipulate every one of us.
People look at their political or religious leader and say, “He is all out for the truth. He wants everything to be transparent. He does all he can. Notice his amazing zeal and sincerity.” In mainstream society, that seems to be where all the emphasis is. He is all out; and because he gives all his effort to his cause, it is taken for granted that he must be right, that he must know what he is talking about, and that he should in no way be criticized.
The belief that someone is right because he has sincerity and zeal is as fallacious as saying that, because we are traveling very quickly along a certain road and because the gas pedal of the car is pushed all the way down, therefore we must of necessity be on the right road. What a bunch of bull! The rate of speed and method of traveling are no guarantee that we are on the right road. It is not within the competence of sincerity and zeal to determine the rightness or the wrongness of the view that we hold.
This point is seen still more clearly when we realize that zeal and sincerity can be right or wrong and still remain zeal and sincerity. In other words, we must not forget that we can be sincerely wrong and quite genuinely mistaken.
That a person is sincere is, therefore, no guarantee of righteousness, and to make it the standard and the ultimate test is just to throw logic and clear thinking to the wind. Many of the greatest cruelties and excesses recorded in both ancient and modern history must be attributed to sincerity and zeal not governed and controlled by truth. In other words, what seems to have been forgotten is that we can say of sincerity what is said of fire in the old adage: “Fire is a good servant but a bad master.” As long as it is under control, nothing is more valuable than fire. We can heat our rooms, cook our meals, and perform an endless number of beneficial actions with it. However, once fire ceases to be under control and it becomes the master, it leads to nothing but destruction and chaos.
The case is precisely the same with sincerity. When knowledge and truth are in control, nothing is finer or more important than sincerity; but if we hand control to sincerity itself, it may lead us hopelessly astray and even to disaster.
Remember the incident in Alice in Wonderland, when Alice asks the Cheshire Cat for help:
Alice: Oh, no, no. I was just wondering if you could help me find my way.
Cheshire Cat: Well that depends on where you want to get to.
Alice: Oh, it really doesn’t matter, as long as…
Cheshire Cat: Then it really doesn’t matter which way you go.
One might say that Alice had a great sincerity to find her way home, but it was not of the truth, of knowledge. Because she did not know the way, it did not matter which way that she went.
It is foolish to move forward without the right goal and direction. It is false reasoning to trust only in sincerity and zeal undirected by truth. Let us consider for a moment the futility of this position. Let us consider what a terrible waste of energy is involved when sincerity and zeal are undirected by knowledge and truth. For instance, if we are concerned about scientific experimentation, to trust only eagerness and sincerity in the quest for results without having a certain amount of knowledge is useless and may even be very dangerous. In any area of life, knowledge is essential; and mere fervency apart from truth cannot produce the desired result. When we realize that we are concerned ultimately with doing that which is virtuous, how infinitely more important it is to realize that knowledge of virtue and its purpose with respect to us is absolutely vital before we move on to any action at all.
Our all is not enough, if its sincerity is misguided. Zeal and sincerity without true knowledge, which comes alone through the pursuit of virtue, are vain and futile. Sincerity without truth is worthless, but sincerity based on truth has the right direction and the zeal to pursue the right goal. Sincerity with truth always helps keep us on the path of virtue.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”There should be more sincerity and heart in human relations, more silence and simplicity in our interactions. Be rude when you’re angry, laugh when something is funny, and answer when you’re asked.” author=”ANTON CHEKHOV”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Sincerity, even if it speaks with a stutter, will sound eloquent when inspired.” author=”EIJI YOSHIKAWA”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Sincerity is a high quality, but its virtues are only efficacious when discreetly applied. Human beings, at the best, are but bundles of prejudices and humors, which it will not do to cut through too abruptly, lest the ties which bind them to ourselves be also severed, and the friendship of years fall to pieces in a day. The prudent surgeon, at the same time that he exerts his skill to excise, is careful not to lacerate, lest the patient die of mortification. In order to be sincere, it is not necessary to say the whole of what we think: enough that we do not, for the sake of being agreeable, say that which we feel to be untrue. In our most intimate friends there are numerous failings which we have no right to point out, manifold weaknesses we must not make weaker by tearing; and although we are wise to look as deeply into a well as our perceptions will allow us, there may be a thousand little truths at the bottom which it would be cruel to fish up.” author=”CHARLES WILLIAM DAY”/]
The Sincerity Test
The purpose of the following test is to measure one’s level of sincerity. Are you sincere with others? Do you ever tell white lies (or big lies!)? The situations presented by this test are likely, this mean that they may happen in real life. Of course you have to be sincere at least when answering our questions… If you are planning to lie, don’t even take the test!
1 – You took a cake from the refrigerator and ate it; after a while you find out that the cake had been prepared for your arriving guests… You
A. Deny that the cake was in the refrigerator
B. Deny your responsibility
C. Admit your fault
2 – A dear friend of yours (a woman) bought a very exuberant dress, which also doesn’t fit her nicely. She asks your opinion, you:
A. Tell her she’s beautiful
B. Pretend an incoming call and run away
C. Tell her the truth
3 – When you give an opinion to your friends, do they believe you?
A. No, usually
B. Yes, sometimes
C. Yes, frequently
4 – What’s your opinion about “white lies”?
A. They are a very good invention
B. You try not to tell them
C. They are wrong anyway
5 – Do you remember the last time you told someone a lie?
A. You tell too many lies to remember
B. You think so
C. You never tell lies
6 – Is it a lie to tell children about the existence of Santa Claus?
A. Santa really exists
B. It’s not a bad lie
7 – You cheated on your partner and he/she guessed it. What do you do?
A. You deny everything
B. You invent some justifications
C. You admit your fault
8 – You spent a lot of money for buying an “original” car… You would like your friends to:
A. Love your car anyway
B. Appreciate your car
C. Tell you what they really think about your car
9 – What do you think about those companies of friends where people cover up their wrongdoings reciprocally?
A. That’s real friendship
B. Sometimes it’s necessary
C. They are cowards
10 – You invited some guests for dinner and one of them harshly criticizes your homemade food. What’s your reaction?
A. You think he’s rude
B. You are disappointed, he could pretend to liked it
C. You appreciate his sincerity
11 – You told a little lie that has been discovered. How do you feel?
C. You never tell lies
12 – What do you think about sincerity at all costs?
A. It’s useless or harmful
B. It’s right, within certain limits
C. It’s fundamental
13 – You became an important public personality. Journalists discovered some skeletons in your closet, you:
A. Deny everything
B. Try to burke the discovery
C. Admit your faults
14 – People in love with each other should have no secrets. Do you agree?
A. Not at all
B. Yes, but it’s not always possible
C. Yes, completely
15- A friend of yours confessed you that he cheated on his girlfriend (your friend also). Do you tell her about it?
A. No, never
B. I’d like to, but I’m not sure
C. Yes, I tell her everything
16 – Your partner told you a secret. The day after your best friend asks you about it. You:
A. Pretend you don’t know anything
B. Tell him it’s none of his business
C. Tell him the secret
17 – Lying to get out of troubles is passable. What do you think?
A. You completely agree
B. You partially agree
C. You don’t agree
18 – Your partner did something bad towards you. Do you want to know about it?
A. No, I prefer a lie
B. No, I don’t want to know anything
C. Yes, I want him/her to tell me the truth
19 – Is it worse a lie about something futile, or a lie about something important?
A. They are both not bad
B. The lie about something important
C. They are both serious lies
20 – Some social contexts do not like dispassionate sincerity. What’s your opinion about it?
A. It should always be like this
B. There must be some good reasons for this
C. It’s wrong anyway[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins.” author=”Ralph Waldo Emerson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Sincerity is an openness of heart; we find it in very few people; what we usually see is only an artful dissimulation to win the confidence of others.” author=”LA ROCHEFOUCAULD”/]
That Man in the Glass
When you get what you want in your struggle for wealth,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.
For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Whose judgment you must pass.
The person whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.
He is the one to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear up to the end,
And you’ve passed your most difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.
You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass.
By Maurice Maeterlinck
LOVE contains no complete and lasting happiness save in the transparent atmosphere of perfect sincerity. Until we attain this sincerity, our love is but an experiment: we live in expectation, and our words and kisses are only provisional. But sincerity is not possible except between lofty and trained consciences. Moreover, it is not enough that the consciences should be that: if sincerity is to become natural and essential, this is requisite besides, that the consciences shall be almost equal, of the same extent, of the same quality, and that the love that unites them shall be deep-laid. And thus it is that the lives glide away of so many men who never meet the soul with which they could have been sincere.
But it is impossible to be sincere with others before learning to be sincere with one’s self. Sincerity is only the consciousness and analysis of the motives of all life’s actions. It is the expression of this consciousness that one is able, later to lay before the eyes of the being with whom one is seeking the happiness of sincerity.
Thus understood, sincerity’s aim is not to lead to moral perfection. It leads elsewhere, higher if we will: in any case to more human and more fertile regions. The perfection of a character, as we generally understand it, is too often but an unproductive abstention, a sort of ataraxy, an abatement of instinctive life which is, when all is said, the one source of all the other lives that we succeed in organizing within us. This perfection tends to suppress our too ardent desires: ambition, pride, vanity, egoism, the craving for enjoyment, in short, all the human passions, that is to say, all that constitutes our primitive vital force, the very groundwork of our energy of existence, which nothing can replace. If we stifle within ourselves all the manifestations of life, to substitute for them merely the contemplation of their defeat, soon we shall have nothing left to contemplate.
Wherefore, it is not of importance to have no more passions, vices or faults: that is impossible, so long as one is a man in the midst of men, since we make the mistake to describe as passion, vice or fault that which is the very basis of human nature. But it is of importance to recognize, in their details and in their secrets, those which we possess and to watch them at work from a standpoint so high that we may look upon them without fearing lest they should overthrow us or escape from our control to go and heedlessly to harm us or those around us.
So soon as, from that stand-point, we see our instincts, even the lowest and the most selfish, at work, provided that we are not willfully wicked – and it is difficult to be that when our intelligence has acquired the lucidity and the force which this faculty of observation implies – so soon as we see them thus at work, they become harmless, like children under their parents’ eyes. We can even lose sight of them, forget to watch them for a time; they will commit no serious misdeeds; for the obligation that lies upon them to repair the evil which they have done renders them naturally circumspect and soon makes them lose the habit of doing harm.
When we have achieved a sufficient sincerity with ourselves, it does not follow that we must deliver it to the first-comer. The frankest and most loyal man has the right to hide from others the greater part of what he thinks or feels. If it be uncertain whether the truth which you propose to speak will be understood, do not utter it. It would appear in others quite different from that which it is in you; and, taking in them the appearance of a lie, it would do the same harm as a real lie. Whatever the absolute moralists may say, so soon as one is no longer among equal consciences, every truth, to produce the effect of truth, requires focusing; and Jesus Christ Himself was obliged to focus the greater part of those which He revealed to His disciples, for, had He been addressing Plato or Seneca instead of speaking to fishers of Galilee, He would probably have said to them things different from those which He did say.
It is, therefore, right that we should present to each man only the truth for which he has room in the hut or the palace which he has built to admit the truths of his life. But let us, nevertheless, give ten or twenty times as many truths as we are offered in exchange; for in this, as in all circumstances, it behoves the more conscient to take the lead.
The reign of instinct begins only when this focusing is no longer necessary. We then enter the privileged region of confidence and love, which is like a delightful shore where we meet in our nakedness and bathe together under the rays of a kindly sun. Until this hour, man had lived on his guard, like a culprit. He did not yet know that every man has the right to be what he is; that there is no shame in his mind or in his heart, any more than in his body. He soon learns, with the feeling of relief of an acquitted prisoner, that that which he thought it his duty to conceal is just the most radical portion of the force of life. He is no longer alone in the mystery of his conscience; and the most pitiful secrets which he discovers there, far from saddening him as of yore, cause him to love better the firm and gentle light which two united hands turn upon it in concert.
All the evil, all the meannesses, all the weaknesses which we thus disclose in ourselves change their nature so soon as they are disclosed; “and the greatest fault,” as the heroine of a recent drama says, ‘”when confessed in a loyal kiss, becomes a truth more beautiful than innocence.” More beautiful? I do not know; but younger, more vivid, more visible, more active and more loving.
In this state, the idea no longer comes to us to hide a secret thought or a secret sentiment, however vulgar or contemptible. They can no longer make us blush, seeing that, in owning them, we disown them, we separate them from ourselves, we prove that they no longer belong to us, no longer take part in our lives, no longer spring from the active, voluntary and personal side of our strength, but from the primitive, formless and enslaved being that affords us an entertainment as amusing as are all those in which we detect the play of the instinctive powers of nature. A movement of hatred, of selfishness, of silly vanity, of envy or disloyalty, when examined in the light of perfect sincerity, becomes nothing more than an interesting and singular flower. This sincerity, like fire, purifies all that it embraces. It sterilizes the dangerous leaven and turns the greatest injustice into an object of curiosity as harmless as a deadly poison in the glass case of a museum. Imagine Shylock capable of knowing and confessing his greed: he would cease to be greedy, and his greed would change its shape and no longer be odious and hurtful.
For the rest, it is not indispensable that we should correct our acknowledged faults; for there are faults that are, so to speak, necessary to our existence and our character. Many of our defects are the very roots of our good qualities. But the knowledge and admission of these faults and defects chemically precipitates their venom, which becomes no more than a salt, lying inactive at the bottom of the heart, whose innocent crystals we can study at leisure.
The purifying force of the avowal depends upon the quality of the soul that makes it and of the soul that receives it. Once that the balance is established, avowals raise the level of happiness and love. So soon as they are confessed, old lies or new, the most serious weaknesses change into unexpected ornaments and, like beautiful statues in a park, become the smiling witnesses and placid demonstrations of the clearness of the day.
We all desire to attain that blissful sincerity; but we are long fearful lest those who love us should love us less if we revealed to them that which we scarcely dare reveal to ourselves. It seems to us as though certain avowals would disfigure forever the image which they have formed of us. If it were true that the avowals would disfigure it, that would be a proof that we are not loved on the same scale as that on which we love. If he who receives the avowal cannot rise to the height of loving us the more for that avowal, there is a misunderstanding in our love. It is not he who makes the avowal that should blush, but he who does not yet understand that we have overcome a wrong by the very act of confessing it. It is not we but a stranger who now stands in the place where we committed a fault. The fault itself we have eliminated from our being. It no longer sullies any save him who hesitates to admit that it sullies us no longer. It has nothing more in common with our real life. We are no longer anything but the accidental witness of it and no more responsible for it than a good soil is responsible for an ill weed or a mirror for an ugly reflection that passes across it.
Let us not fear any the more that this absolute sincerity, this double transparent life of two beings who love each other, will destroy the background of shadow and mystery that must exist at the bottom of any lasting affection, nor that it will dry up the great unknown lake which, at the summit of every love, feeds the desire for mutual knowledge, the desire which itself is merely the most passionate form of the desire for greater love. No, that background is only a sort of movable and provisional scenery that serves to give to provisional loves the illusion of infinite space. Remove it, and behind it there will at last appear the genuine horizon, with the real sky and sea. As for the great unknown lake, we soon perceive that, until this day, we had drawn from it only a few drops of troubled water. It does not open on to love its healing springs until the moment of sincerity; for the truth in two beings is incomparably richer, deeper and less exhaustible than their appearance, reticence and lies.
Lastly, let us not fear that we shall exhaust our sincerity nor imagine that it will not be possible for us to attain its furthest limits. When we believe and wish it absolute, it is never more than relative; for it can manifest itself only within the borders of our conscience, and those borders are shifted every day, so that the act or thought which we present under the colors which we see in it at the moment of avowal may have an import quite different from that which we attribute to it to-day. In the same way, the act, thought or feeling which we do not avow, because we do not yet perceive it, may become to-morrow the object of a more urgent and graver avowal than all those which we have made to this hour.
Contrary to popular belief “Sincerity” is very important to us Americans.
If you want to better understand American society you have got to spend some time thinking about how we perceive sincerity and hypocrisy. Today, even though we might not say so, we value sincerity as one of our most fundamental human virtues. Naysayers will argue that this is not true, and that we are much more obsessed with wealth or material success. But one of the weirdest things about American society is that while everyone chases money, very few of us wholeheartedly believe in it. Virtually every American will tell you that Americans are too materialistic and that we all sellout too easily. Somehow, we have all internalized a little bit of the old bourgeois ideology. When we ask ourselves what it means not to sell out, a little voice in the back of our heads whispers the same reply: “ to thine own self be true”. Above all else, be sincere. Few things raise the hair on the back of the necks of most intellectuals than “hypocrisy”. There is always someone in our society today who can and will argue, overlook, and try to explain away almost every other type of sin, vice, and cruelty, no matter how much suffering it may cause, or how many social and religious rules it may violate. But not hypocrisy, on hypocrisy we are unanimous, we all hate it. It is inexcusable.
Sincerity of heart is the starting point of spiritual practice and ethical living. A person’s inner intention goes far towards determining the extent to which a particular action is Good and Evil. Sincerity means the natural and spontaneous flow of the mind, devoid of all pretense and all egoistic grasping. Even when the outward form of an act is obedient and faithful, a person’s inner intentions become manifest in the end through sincerity.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.” author=”William Shakespeare”/]
Confronting Hypocrisy in Washington D.C.
The political scene in Washington these days is shameful. Politicians constantly play the “Gotcha game.” They lay in wait for an opponent to make a mistake or suggest a bill to help America and whether it is good or not, say “Gotcha” and try to make a scandal out of it or refuse to help because it is an opponent. Both sides of the isle seem to feed on this and to make matters worse, the press feeds it, trying to create a national shock story to make themselves seem relevant.
This is what Jesus said about the politicians, (in his day called Scribes and Pharisees): “They tie up heavy loads and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. What did He mean? Simply this: the Pharisees made laws and demanded the people to follow these laws, which Jesus said was ok: ..”for they sit in Moses’ seat so practice and observe what they tell you.” However, they themselves found ways to often get around these laws. “They bind heavy burdens hard to bear and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with their finger.”
In a word: Hypocrisy. In Washington, it seems the standards the Democrats set for the Republicans, are not always those they follow themselves., and visa versa. Why? Because if you let your guard down for one minute and admit you may have been wrong in a decision, your opponent will seize the moment and go in for the kill rather than help.
England’s Prince Phillip was once toasted at a banquet with two lines from the poet John Dryden: “A man so various that he seemed to be not one, but all mankind’s epitome.” Impressed with these two lines Prince Phillip looked up the rest of the poem. It reads: A man so various that he seemed to be, not one but all mankind’s epitome. Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong was everything by starts, and nothing long. But in the course of one revolving moon, was chemist, fiddler, statesman and buffoon. I don’t know if Prince Phillip ever got to see the man who toasted him, but the man sure got his point across. Washington needs a prophet like that who is willing to expose the abuse, the hypocrisy and the buffoonery that too often defines the political arena.
Sincere Leadership, is often hard to find, and hard to live up to. Hypocrisy often keeps good leaders from being the best leaders. What is hypocrisy? Charles Schultz illustrates it well in one of his Peanuts cartoons.
Lucy is playing the role of a psychiatrist and sitting at a booth on which there is an overhead sign:
“Psychiatric Help – 5 cents.”
A sign below reads: “The Doctor is in.”
Lucy says to Charlie Brown, “Your life is like a house.”
“You want your house to be built on a solid foundation don’t you?”
Charlie has a blank look on his face.
Lucy says, “Of course you do.”
Charlie just sits in silence, then Lucy says, “So don’t build your house on the sand, Charlie Brown.”
About that time a huge wind comes up and blows the booth down.
Lucy is sitting in the rubble and says, “Or use cheap nails.”
Both politicians and religious leaders, need to practice what they preach. It is not enough to have the right doctrine or to know all the laws, or to correctly teach people the rules. Leaders must live the advice they give. This is incumbent especially on people who hold office, whether religious or secular. If you tell people to build a home on a solid foundation, but use cheap nails in the construction of your own home, then you are a hypocrite.
Dwight D. Eisenhower demonstrated the art of leadership with a piece of string. He’d put it on a table and say, “If you pull it, it will follow wherever you wish. Push it and it will go nowhere.” “It is that way with leadership,” he said, “they need to follow a person who is leading by example.” It is too easy to fall into the trap of our outer significance. No sooner do we acquire a little power than we are trying to display it with letters after our name, or through the clothes or uniforms we wear, or the titles on our door. In fact, all those letters after your name are like a pigs tail, they serve no useful purpose except to tickle the ham.
That does not mean we shouldn’t give thanks and be proud of our accomplishments.
If I am having my appendix out, I want to see an MD after the surgeon’s name.
If I am taking college course I would like to see a PhD after the professor’s name.
It’s ok to be called a teacher if you are a teacher in deed.
It’s ok to be called a doctor if you are a doctor indeed.
It’s ok to be called a father if you are a father indeed.
It is ok to be called “the boss” if you are a boss indeed.
It is ok to be called a mother if you are a mother indeed.
For it is not the title, but the DEED that makes it so.
So how then do we combat hypocrisy, (for we will never do away with it in ourselves altogether). We confront it or combat it with humility. What is humility? Webster defines it as: Not proud or arrogant; Low in rank or importance, or position.
So if you want to confront the hypocrisy in your life, then find a place to serve, for as servants, our deeds will carry far more weight in the end than any letters behind our name or titles on our business card.
LOOK WHAT I CAN DO!
Have you ever been around folks who will do good things, but they want to make sure others know they did it?
My favorite saying for people like this is “ Look what I can do!” For some people it is all about looking good.
In a small college town a tavern frequented by students ran the following ad in the campus paper during the days before Parents Weekend: “Bring Your Parents for Lunch Saturday. We’ll Pretend We Don’t Know You!” The ad was soon challenged by the college chaplain, who posted a revised version on the campus bulletin board. It read: “Bring Your Parents to Chapel Sunday. We’ll Pretend We Know You!”
We have seen some people who will do some nice things, but they want to make sure others see it. It is like the athlete or celebrity who goes to visit sick children with a camera crew in tow. We seen others who do things and they do not seek recognition for what they do, speaking of athletes and celebrities, there are so many who do so much like visiting children in hospitals who never seek fanfare for it.
Which person do you respect more? In life, people are looking for something real to hold on to. People are looking for people who are genuine to look up to and follow. Are actions alone good enough, or is the heart behind the actions important?
Think back to the time of Jesus. The landscape has not changed too much over two thousand years. During His day many people were going through the motions of religion so that they would receive accolades from other people. Jesus warned us about the attitude and motivation by which we do good things.
The word for (to be noticed) is related to the term from which we get theater. It has in mind a spectacle to be gazed at. In other words, Jesus is warning about practicing a form of righteousness (acts of religious devotion in general) whose purpose is to show off before men. Such religion is like a play; it is not real life but acting. It does not demonstrate what is in the minds and hearts of the actors, but is simply a performance designed to make a certain impression on those who are watching. Jesus said that if we do things to receive attention from people, that we will have received our reward. Jesus was telling us that while we are not forbidden to do righteous acts in front of people; we are not to do it with the intention of receiving the glory. Many of the religious and political leaders of Jesus day struggled with this issue and many people still struggle with it today.
Jesus was big on hypocrites. He used many figures to describe hypocrisy. He compared hypocrisy it to leavening bread, to whitewashed tombs, concealed tombs, weeds amidst the wheat, and to wolves in sheep’s clothing. In His day, hypocrite was an actor in a play. A hypocrite is one who plays something they are not. Jesus was telling us in all three instances how to avoid becoming a person who plays something they are not. We must keep our guard up so that we can remain genuine, so that we keep up not only the right actions, but the attitudes and motives that are so important to maintain.
Here are three clear examples of what Jesus was trying to tell us about being sincere:
EXAMPLE 1: “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” This was a bad example of giving. Jesus says that the hypocrite will give to the poor, but they will do it in such a way that people will notice them and praise them for their generosity. Jesus says that when we give in this manner that the applause from man is the only reward we will receive. There will be no deposit in your heavenly treasure. Many people do the same thing today. When our churches and non-profits raise money for their needs, they usually offer ways to make sure other people know that you gave the gift. They sound the trumpet. Wouldn’t it be best if they didn’t?
EXAMPLE 2: “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. Prayer was an important part of the day for the people of Jesus time and it should be an important part of our day as well. Jesus says the hypocrites made sure that during prayer time they were in a place to be seen praying. Some would make sure they were in a busy area during these prayer times so that people would see them lift their hands toward heaven and marvel at their piety. These people have received their reward in full. Jesus was not prohibiting public prayer, but He was saying that prayer is not a show. Prayer is about attitude and motives.
EXAMPLE 3: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. “ A third example of a religious practice that illustrates hypocrisy is the common practice of fasting. Fasting as an act of religious devotion was highly valued in those days, not only among Jewish groups, but also in popular other religious orders. In fasting Jesus said that we are not to be noticed for doing it. The popular practice of the day was for people who wanted to be noticed to go unshaven and some would put ashes on themselves and even in their eyes to disfigure their faces so that people would see them. When we fast, are we telling people we are to impress them or are we doing it in an effort to better focus on our God. The hypocrite WANTS everyone to know they are fasting.
The answer to avoiding hypocrisy is to have an overall attitude of humility in everything we do. We are to be humble enough to not to need the recognition of man when we do things for the good of our brothers and sisters.
When Jesus spoke of the religious and political leaders of the times he said “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Boy, does that sound familiar today. It is important for us to realize that not only are actions important but also the motives and attitudes behind the actions. We always need to make sure that we are doing what we are doing for the right reason and the right reason should never be to bring glory to ourselves.