Sincerity is probably the most appreciated human trait. All people, in all situations – romantic, platonic or otherwise – claim they seek honesty in others, above all else. Why then are only some people sincere, while others are deceitful? Is sincerity a feature we are born with or is it learned? Before looking for an answer to this essential question which might change our future behaviour, we first need to define sincerity. According to the dictionary, sincerity is „the lack of faking or cunning”. The thesaurus continues with a list of total or partial synonyms, as following: “frankness; loyalty, allegiance. Honour, honesty, fairness, probity, integrity. Faith, fidelity, devotion. Natural, simple, spontaneity, equanimity. Innocence, purity, candour; naivety, gullibility. Confidence, revelation, divulgence, confession. Objectivity, impartiality. Truth, truthfulness. Verisimilitude (rare)” and the list goes on.
As we can see, semantic multiplicity offers the possibility of a convenient selection when we assume the attribute of sincere persons or when we project it onto others. The etymology of this word tells us many things about the implications it supposes. Although, from the perspective of folklore, the story behind “sincerity” is worth mentioning. In ancient Rome, the quality standard for pottery was a wood inscription or vocal declaration by merchants: sine cera!
In Latin, sine cera means no wax. In order to hold water, clay pots had to be made from a single piece and, of course, waterproof. Because it could happen that a pot would crack from various reasons, wax would be used to hide the cracks. In contact with water, the wax would get soggy, and water would start pouring through the cracks, therefore making the pot unusable. Sine cera was, therefore, the guarantee for a genuine object. Metaphorically speaking, to be sincere means to be “without wax”, that is not wearing a mask. The mask can take various forms. From hiding our interests, thoughts, emotions, actions, not really nice character features and up to that aggressive make-up, hiding the natural facial features. Although my thinking might sound conservative, I believe that a sculpting makeup, which manages to completely remake the shape of your face up to your total transfiguration, is ethically dubious. I do not refer here to moderated make-up or natural make-up, but to the one that makes you unrecognisable, even to your parents.
Besides this definition of truthfulness, of a representation in accordance with reality, sincerity also implies the connection of gestures, words and actions of our feelings, thoughts or beliefs. It is a communication act, to transmit a message in conformity with your own being in all its essential data. Well, we need to open a parenthesis here. Sincerity is often mistaken with rudeness and, in the end, with the lack of common sense and empathy. I’ve heard so many times around me people justifying their rudeness, even pretending to be the victims, through the phrase “but I was being honest, why did it upset you?” Sincerity does not give you the right to say exactly what you think with no consideration in regards to the feelings of those around you.
Authenticity is the keyword in this equation. In the end, it is only about being in conformity with yourself. But now, there is another question. If it seems so simple and natural, why can’t we find more sincere people? Or, getting back to where we started, why are some people sincere and others not? Are we genetically programmed to be honest or fake? I don’t think so. Instead, i believe that we decide how we want to be. On the other hand, of course, temperament dictates our openness towards adopting a frank position on what we think, as is the case of the choleric and sanguine temperaments. It can also indicate a need to withdraw, isolate and an inability to express what we think – fear of vulnerability through exposure – as in the case of the phlegmatic and melancholic temperaments. In any case, education in this aspect is preceded by our conscious decision to be sincere and honest persons, and is the one prevailing factor, which can make wonders even for the shiest and most melancholic of us. Consistency in our own thinking – besides the natural process of continuously evolving and changing our vision on life – is a matter of respect towards ourselves and towards others.
Sincerity is also one of the main qualities that defines a Christian’s noble character. We are responsible for an honest relationship with God ("Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth” - Joshua 24,14), as well as with each other. We have to be aware of the impact of our words and attitudes: “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3, 18).