Sincerity – Wisdom of the Ancients

by Henrik Edberg

Sincerity - Wisdom of the Ancients
Image by gualtiero (license).

Note: This is a guest post by Alex Stewart of Healing Philosophy.

If you were a regular reader of Healing Philosophy you would already have a good idea what the ancients thought about sincerity. But you would also know I am going to tell you anyway as it has become the Tradition.

The treasure of a land

In fact we already saw what the Chinese ancients had to say in Sincerity – the treasure of a land, Sincerity, I Ching, Obama and Obama and the new era of responsibility, among other posts. Here is the basic theme:

“Sincerity is the treasure of a land, for it is in sincerity that the people find their strength in times of hardship.”
Confucius

“Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.”
Confucius

“Sincerity is the way of heaven; to think how to be sincere is the way of man.”
Mencius

How can sincerity be the treasure of a land, you ask? How naïve! That’s what I told myself also. Isn’t it fortitude or courage? What about money, oil, gold? Nope. It’s sincerity. When all your other strengths have gone, when you have no fortitude left, no courage, no money, no nothing, you still have one strength left: the strength to be sincere.

Here we are not merely talking about not telling lies but a way of being. When we are sincere as a way of being, we are obviously our true selves. It takes no effort to be ourselves: unplugged, uncut, natural.

The power of sincerity

“Sincerity and truth are the basis of every virtue.”
Confucius

“Sincerity and honesty carry one through many difficulties which all the arts he can invent would never help him through.”
Benjamin Stillingfleet

“Sincerity, a deep, great, genuine sincerity, is the first characteristic of all men in any way heroic.”
Thomas Carlyle

When we are our true selves, we tap into universal laws and forces, which come to our aid. When we are sincere the road ahead is plain, easy and simple. We do not waste any time or energy in scheming or maintaining appearances. Our contact with others is direct, strong and clear. We more easily win others’ confidence and willing support for our cause. And our sincerity gains us universal respect, even the respect of our enemies.

“The happy talent of pleasing either those above or below you seems to be wholly owing to the opinion they have of your sincerity… There need be no more said in honour of it than that it is what forces the approbation of your opponents.”
Sir Richard Steele

Sincerity – the shortest way to reality

“If a time of scanty resources brings out an inner truth, one must not feel ashamed of simplicity. For simplicity is then the very thing needed to provide inner strength for further undertakings.”
I Ching

“No man can produce great things who is not thoroughly sincere in dealing with himself.”
James Russell Lowell

For the Chinese ancients, hard times bring out inner truths. If we face these truths sincerely, we find the strength for further undertakings. This is often in contrast to the way most of us view things in today’s society.

“The ancient sages always blamed themselves. Modern people, however, look for faults in others instead of acknowledging their own faults.”
Master Hsuan Hua

Not facing up to inner truths; pretending we are richer than we are, smarter than we are; blaming others for our problems, blaming the government, Wall Street and so on; this is the opposite of the ancients’ wisdom. Any old sage will tell you, even today, that you cannot fix a problem until you first admit you have one, and not only that you have one, but also that you are in large part responsible for it.

“To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.”
Epictetus

Sincerity is never wrong

“Decrease does not under all circumstances mean something bad. Increase and decrease come in their own time. What matters here is to understand the time and not to try to cover up poverty with empty pretence.”
I Ching

“Insincerity is always weakness; sincerity even in error is strength.”
George H. Lewes

“Sincerity makes the very least person to be of more value than the most talented hypocrite.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Everything happens for a reason. ‘There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so’. The Way of the Tao is not always to be right, but always to be sincere and to look for the message in the situation. Thus with sincerity we face up to ourselves, the times and the situation. There is untold strength in this. We are no longer victims.

We are no longer helpless passengers in a leaking boat without a paddle on a fast-moving river, buffeted by every rock, heading who knows where. Perhaps we do not have the power to take the boat up the river, but we do have the power to avoid the rocks and guide the boat to more tranquil waters and landing places along the riverbank.

Six ways to bring more sincerity into your life:

  1. Write down three character traits you consider your strengths, and three you consider your weaknesses. Now ask friends or family members to do the same. How do they compare? What did your parents always say were your strengths and your weaknesses? What do people say of you when they are angry? (The truth usually comes out in anger). What does your employer consider your strengths and weaknesses when you are evaluated? Are there themes here that you consistently deny? You may need to accept you are not being sincere with yourself.
  2. When your plans go awry, when you are passed over for a promotion, when you make a mistake, do you habitually blame others or events outside your control?
  3. Do you waste time and energy maintaining appearances? Do you live above your means? Pull out your last credit card bill and ask yourself if each charge reflects who you are or who you are pretending to be.
  4. If you suddenly became financially independent, how would you spend your days? Would you quit your job? Would you move to another part of the country? End a relationship? Take up oil painting? Move to Japan? These are indications of true interests that you should look into even though you may not be financially independent, yet.
  5. Marcus Aurelius said “Do not act as though you have a thousand years to live”. If you had 5 years to live how would you spend it?
  6. What are your goals? Are they based on your true desires as seen in questions 4 and 5 or are they based on desires you (your parents etc) think you should have?

Alex Stewart writes about personal development and empowering insights from eastern and western philosophy at Healing Philosophy.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it on Stumbleupon or vote for it on Digg. Thanks a lot! =)




Like what you've read? Then get email updates (it's free)

Join over 59,426 awesome subscribers who receive exclusive happiness and personal development tips every week!

Click here to get started!

Print Friendly

{ 5 comments }

Roger - A Content Life March 24, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Interesting post!

I particularly liked…

“Do not act as though you have a thousand years to live”. If you had 5 years to live how would you spend it?

You might also want to ask what you would do if you had 6 months to live.

Jens Upton March 24, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Hiya

Great article!
A cause for reflection and very inspiring. Interesting to read the similarities in old chinese sayings and those of a more recent western source. Particularly liked the concise I Ching and Confucian wisdom.
Stumbled

Sincerely yours ;)
Jens

Brittany March 25, 2009 at 4:05 am

This post has taught me much about myself in such a small amount of time. You introduce a lot of valuable reminders we (or at least I) need to think of every day! I try not to shirk my responsibilities, and I absolutely try to live my life as if I could die tomorrow.

Shanel Yang March 26, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Alex, I love this topic. It reminds me of Billy Joel’s song “Honesty.” He sings:

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.

Henrik, I linked to your blog from my blog today as part of a meme. One of the rules is that I let you know. Now, you know! ; )

Saidely March 27, 2009 at 9:53 am

viva sincerity , I guess ;)
Gracious

Previous post:

Next post: