What is the essence of sincerity?

Thoughts with regard to the eighth commandment
Nyomtatóbarát változatNyomtatóbarát változat

 

1. Who is my neighbor and what is false testimony? How much easier the eighth commandment ("Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour!") would be if the words "your neighbor" were not there or there were "your friend" there instead. Jesus’ illustration about the Good Samaritan (Lucas 10:25) teaches us that the network of love around us and the acts of mercy recognizing the need determine the idea of "neighbor". God has no respect of persons being not partial (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11). We should not be either. False speech is harmful by far not only on court. Our nowadays "post-reality" society has made it an awfully common practice that if something is told with a media-magnified voice becomes true – whether or not reality is diametrically the opposite of it. Faithful word is not only right but pure, too. Silence can also be false witness. The real point of the eighth commandment is not prohibition either but persuasion. I should spread the truth and stand for it: I should not be silent when truth is violated. (If you would like to know more about this, please read my essay here.)

 

2. How can we be sincere? A lot of people identify sincerity with truthfulness. The profound content of sincerity is to be honest with God. When somebody speaks sincerely, he speaks about the essence instead of unimportant things. Sincerity does not necessarily mean to be talkative. (In fact real sincerity speaks little because it focuses on the essence.) A Carthusian monk who has taken a vow of silence can also strongly show the essence of his existence through his life, metacommunications and writings. (If you would like to know more about this, please read my essay here.)

 

3. What is real sincerity? The essence of sincerity is our relations to the harmony of the created world of God. If we accept the harmony of the created order of God, we get into the love stream coming from the Holy Trinity. Whether we hear the call of Jesus to love is the only really important decision of our lives. It belongs to real sincerity that we forward the love to others that we have received. It is the essence of our existence to participate in the love chain. (If you would like to know more about this, please read my essay here.)

 


 

 

Introduction. This season’s essays are written about the Ten Commandments. With regard to the first commandment ("I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before Me.") I wrote about the Christian identity. Interpreting the second and the third commandments ("Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Remember to keep holy the Lord's day.") I examined the concept of the real honoring of God. Regarding the fourth commandment ("Honor your father and your mother!") I was looking for the answer to what makes a dialogue determining in somebody’s life? The key idea of the answer is the openness to honor other people (e.g. our parents). Thinking over the fifth commandment ("Thou shalt not murder!") I showed that there are many ways to commit a murder in our everyday lives, and whom we kill when we are unable to forgive. I also thought it over what we must murder to become capable of accepting Jesus. Related to the sixth commandment ("Thou shalt not commit adultery!") I tried to find an answer to how we can avoid fornication and what purity means as a state of life. During the interpretation of the seventh commandment ("Thou shalt not steal!") I was looking for answers to the questions of what we can steal, what the opposite of theft is and when we do not steal from God. When thinking over the eighth commandment ("Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour!") I explored the issues of who is my neighbor, what insincerity and what real sincerity are. With regards to the ninth and the tenth commandments ("Thou shalt not covet neighbor's house! Thou shalt not covet neighbor's wife, slaves, animals, or anything else!") I was looking for answers to the questions of what we should not wish for and what is the only appropriate wish.

 

1. Who is my neighbor and what is false testimony?

 

Santa Claus: Have you been a good kid? Child: Yes, I have!
Santa Claus: And what about your brother? Child: He has not!
Santa Claus (with a severe look): And which of the two is true?
Child (a little fearfully): None of them...

 

How much easier the eighth commandment ("Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour!") would be if the words "your neighbor" were not there or there were "your friend" there instead. (Let’s examine these versions: "Do not bear false witness!" It is clear: if you swear on the Bible on court that you will tell the truth then you should not lie. "Do not bear false witness against your friend!" No problem: I have some good pals whose interests I take into account – some people may add here: ...if I will be well paid – and all the others should beware!) But there is this damn neighbor or fellow man (who is not my neighbor at all). Who is my neighbor? Jesus’ illustration about the Good Samaritan (Lucas 10:25) teaches us that the network of love around us and the acts of mercy recognizing the need determine the idea of "neighbor" and not the concepts of the assumed stranger or enemy. God has no respect of persons being not partial (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11). We should not be either. The prohibition of insincerity is general: there is no a fictive escape because of our own interests, identity, presumptions or fears.

 

"We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor,
betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him,
and explain everything in the kindest way."

(Martin Luther: Small Catechism)

 

What is false witness? Jesus’ words warn ("But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one"; Matthew 5:37), that false speech is harmful by far not only on court. Our nowadays "post-reality" society has made it an awfully common practice that if something is told three times (or even only once but with a media-magnified voice…) becomes true – whether or not reality is diametrically the opposite of it. (Let’s note that today’s world goes back to the times of Enlightenment or even before Christianity when the magic power of "incantation" had made the non-existent 'reality'. Our time’s great enablers pretend to be media magicians.) Defamation, accusation, judgement, or even the lack of credibility, distortion, as well as ulterior motive are all such insincerities that we have to avoid. Faithful word is not only right but pure, too. Silence can also be false witness. Last but not least at all: the real point of the eighth commandment is not prohibition either but persuasion. I should spread the truth and stand for it: I should not be silent when truth is violated.

 


 

2. How can we be sincere?

 

"Before speaking, think it over
what you would like to say, whether it is nicer
than the silence you are up to break."

(Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin)

 

A lot of people identify sincerity with truthfulness. "The one who does not lie is sincere." If we think about the real meaning of sincerity then we realize that sincerity is more than truthfulness. (Socrates’ triple filter in case of proper speech placed the criteria of goodness and usefulness beside truthfulness, too.) The profound content of sincerity is to be honest with ourselves and with God. Sincerity implies self-awareness and integrity. When somebody speaks sincerely, he does not only avoid lies but speaks about the essence instead of unimportant things. He considers it important and possible to share the essence of his life with those he gets in contact with. He discloses and shares the most significant values his life carries. Sincerity does not necessarily mean to be talkative. (In fact real sincerity speaks little because it focuses on the essence.) A Carthusian monk who has taken a vow of silence can also strongly show the essence of his existence through his life, metacommunications and writings. (During the thirty days’ silence of the Saint Ignatius retreat we got to know each other’s essence better being with those even whose names we did not know than that of our childhood friends.)

 


 

3. What is real sincerity?

 

"To fail in the sincerity of sharing, in fact, or to fail in the sincerity of love,
means cultivating hypocrisy, distancing oneself from the truth, becoming selfish,
extinguishing the fire of communion and fating oneself to the chill of inner death.
Those who behave in this way pass through the Church like tourists,
they never step in, they are always in transition."

(Pope Francis,21 August 2019)

 

When we try to find the answer to the question of what real sincerity is, it is worth starting with the thought that "when somebody speaks sincerely, he speaks about the essence instead of the unimportant things". But what is the essence? The essence is our relations to the harmony of the created world of God. Whether we realize this harmony, whether we feel the relation to it and whether this relation is acceptance or rejection. If we accept the harmony of the created order of God, we get into the love stream coming from the Holy Trinity. Whether we hear the call of Jesus to love is the only really important decision of our lives.  It belongs to real sincerity that we forward the love to others that we have received. It is the essence of our existence to participate in the love chain. (As an example: we should not give piles of chocolate to our children on Saint Nicholas’ Day because they get fed up with it. Not any chocolate makes up a missing smile or caress. We should give more love instead of chocolate – and send the chocolate, together with our love because it never ends, to those who do not have any.)

 

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