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The Power of Sincerity

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From flickr.com/photos/54323860@N06/6197373238/: Mahatma Gandhi: A tribute
Mahatma Gandhi: A tribute
(image by U.S. Embassy New Delhi)
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"We need to be the change we wish to see in the world..." Mahatma Gandhi [i]

Inner and Outer

Most people associate the word "sincere" with the dictionary definition: "having or showing true feelings that are expressed in an honest way." [ii] The common sense of the word rests in a concern for the genuine in contrast to the fake. However, the true meaning of the word goes much deeper. This deeper meaning posits the achievement of congruity between our true inner reality and our external image. Its power is demonstrated when the inner reality is made manifest in the outer world.

The world is what we make it

On the topic of sincerity, Confucius said:

"...if a man does not understand what is good, he will not attain sincerity in himself.

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Sincerity is the way of Heaven. The attainment of sincerity is the way of men. He who possesses sincerity, is he who without an effort, hits what is right, and apprehends, without the exercise of thought--he naturally and easily embodies the right way. He who attains sincerity, is he who chooses what is good, and firmly holds it fast.

To attain this requires the extensive study of what is good, accurate inquiry about it, careful reflection on it, the clear discrimination of it, and the earnest practice of it" [iii]

In other words, Confucius is assuring us that we can develop this quality in our character if we make the effort.

Is Image Everything?

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A great American president has addressed this subject. On the issue of character President Abraham Lincoln said:

Reputation is the shadow. Character is the tree. Our character is much more than just what we try to display for others to see, it is who we are even when no one is watching. Good character is doing the right thing because it is right to do what is right. [iv]

These words echo those of Confucius. Reputation is a good thing but only if it is a geniuine expression of good character. If you have a good reputation and it is not sincere, meaning it is not the result of good character, then it is a sham, a trick, a manipulation. And if you accept the proposition that the world is what we make it, then a world created on a false image is a sham, a trick and a manipulation. Is such a world truly worth having? Is such a life truly worth living? Image is not everything.

The Better Angels of Our Nature

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Eric Z. Lucas is an alumnus of Stanford University (Creative Writing Major: 1972-1975), the University of Washington (1981: BA English Literature and Elementary Education) and Harvard Law School, J.D. 1986. Since law school he has been a public (more...)
 

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