Progressing from real, to authentic, to genuine—now sincerity
Recently I realized that my character needs improvement. So I’ve decided to become sincere. This would be in contrast to last year, when I tried to be genuine. I thought being genuine was a good thing, kind of like being sincere but more, uh, genuine.
I guess I was wrong. When I shared with someone my desire to be a genuine person, he replied, “That’s dumb. Sounds like you’re describing a diamond or something. And you’re no diamond.”
I couldn’t really argue with that. But I’d only changed to genuine because I was told I needed to quit being authentic. For a long time I was sold on authenticity and even claimed that my goal as a music leader was to create anauthentic worship experience. It seemed like a concept everyone could relate to.
My bad. At one point somebody griped, “It bugs me when you talk about being authentic. It means you’re going to pull out a guitar and make me sing annoying praise choruses.”
All right then. Before I switched to authenticity, I was trying to be real. One time when I mentioned this, the person I was talking to almost spit out his coffee. “You want to be real? What, are you some kind of hippie?”
Unfortunately, I wasn’t. I wanted to be when I was younger and even had the long hair for it. But my hippie dreams ended one day when my parents and I ran into a friend of theirs. “So,” the lady inquired, “is this your daughter?”
There are concerns I have about becoming sincere. First, it’s an old-school trait, from the days when people signed letters with “Sincerely Yours…” You know, letters? Those paper thingies people used to write with pens? I know it’s hard to remember back that far.
Second, sincerity hasn’t exactly been a popular quality in our society. Irony and sarcasm are the cultural traits of our time. Earnest people tend to get criticized and derided. If you are a sincere person who happens to become famous, you will likely get mocked on YouTube and Web sites with names such as SincerePeopleSuck.com.
Third, the two statements I hear most often about sincerity aren’t that great. One is that it’s all right to believe in anything as long as you’re sincere. The other is a reaction to that: You can be sincerely wrong!
I don’t like either of these sayings. Believing in whatever you want isn’t really sincere, just kind of vague and self-absorbed. People patch together a little of this kind of spirituality and a little of that kind of ideology, then change it a week later to suit their needs.
The statement about being sincerely wrong, I like even less. I hear it a lot from Christians. Some Christians who say this, however, have nothing but negative opinions about cultural trends they don’t like, political platforms they don’t agree with and people who don’t look or think like them. They come across like everyone is wrong but themselves. I don’t think that’s the attitude Jesus had in mind when he encouraged believers to develop sincere love for God and others.
The fourth concern I have about becoming sincere is that we live in a highly insincere society. The other day someone came by my house and asked if I wanted a free inspection of my windows and a demonstration of his company’s amazing new miracle windows. I politely replied I did not. The salesman asked why. I said I didn’t want to spend thousands upgrading windows that were perfectly fine.
The salesman looked shocked. “You must have misunderstood,” he said. “Our technicians only want to do a demonstration and give you some helpful advice.We’re not trying to sell you anything.”
Uh, right. The salesman seemed like a nice guy, but his pitch was essentially insincere. Of course he wanted to get his people in and sell me some windows. Why pretend otherwise?
This is the kind of society we live in. Advertisers pretend to care about our needs, politicians make promises they can’t keep, celebrities try to appear earnest and charitable while living lives of debauchery, bloggers make fun of everything and everybody, Christians tell others how to live while not living that way themselves.
How can we get everyone to be more sincere? Well, we can’t. I can only start with me. And I want to be filled with sincere love for God and all the people in my life. I want to sincerely care about those who are hungry, hurting and lost. And if that love and care also turn out to be genuine, authentic and real, that would be groovy too.
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