Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 12, 2004
Sincerity means we finally must grow up
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
To be sincere is to be without false props, without a mask, without anything that's not really you.
Dictionaries offer two versions of the root of the word and both shed light on its meaning. Some dictionaries suggest that "sincere" comes from two Latin words: sine (without) and caries (decay). Hence, to be sincere means to be "without corruption."
Other commentators suggest its root is: sine (without) and cero (to smear, to coat with wax). In this view, to be sincere means "to be uncovered, to have a certain transparency of soul," to not have a coat of anything covering you.
Certainly both are true. To be sincere is to be uncorrupted. To be sincere is also to be bare, uncoated, transparent, truly yourself, not covered with pretence, whim, fad, political correctness, posturing, or acting out. To be sincere is to be without false props, without a mask, without anything that's not really you.
But this isn't easy. Parker Palmer, the renowned American educator, once commented that while he was doing his graduate degree in theology at a Christian seminary, despite all the good and sincere people he met there and all the valuable insights that passed through the classrooms, there was little in the way of genuine sincerity at one level.
Classrooms themselves, he suggests, almost ex officio, militate against sincerity. I paraphrase his comments: During all those years, in all those classes, with all those good people, I doubt there was ever one sincere question asked. There was a lot of posturing, some pretence, a lot of asking of the right things, a lot of political correctness, but not really a question that laid bare a heart, that spoke truly for someone's soul, that issued forth from genuine curiosity.
A generation earlier, C.S. Lewis made a similar statement. In his book, The Great Divorce, Lewis, arguing against a professor of theology who no longer believes in a transcendent God, outlines the anatomy of a lost faith, suggesting that, at root, it takes its base in insincerity: "Let us be frank. Our opinions were not honestly come by. We simply found ourselves in contact with a certain current of ideas and plunged into it because it seemed modern and successful.
"At college, you know, we just started automatically writing the kind of essays that got good marks and saying the kind of things that won applause. When, in our whole lives, did we honestly face, in solitude, the one question on which all turned: whether after all the Supernatural might not in fact occur? When did we put up one moment's resistance to the loss of faith?"
Sincerity is what truly lays bear the heart, genuinely speaks for the soul, and makes for honest curiosity. My friend was right to identify it with the struggle to "finally grow up."
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