Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sincerity - the treasure of a land

Years ago I came across the following phrase, no doubt from the Confucian tradition:

Sincerity is the treasure of a land, and it is in sincerity that the people find their strength in times of hardship.

This impressed me greatly. It seemed so abstract, even naïve a concept to think that sincerity was the treasure of a land. It was not courage. Not fortitude. Not patience. It was not money. Not the financial system. Not industry. Not oil. It was sincerity.
The phrase had a numinous, spiritual quality to it, and I had the distinct impression of being transported back into a time when sincerity was perhaps the treasure of the land back then, but it certainly was not now. But as with many forgotten, clichéd virtues, they are as valid today as they always have been. We only need to remember them.
I could not attribute the quote to Confucius, although I did find this:

The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home. Confucius

Here we are not merely talking about not telling lies but a way of being. Sincerity is total or it is nothing. We must be sincere with ourselves before we can be sincere with others.

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

Sincerity is impossible, unless it pervade the whole being, and the pretence of it saps the very foundation of character. James Russell Lowell

When we are sincere as a way of being, we are obviously our true selves, acting without guile, and the contact with the other person is direct, clear and strong. We do not waste any time or energy in scheming or appearances. We are acting in accordance with our true nature and it is here that we tap the power of the universal, or God, or the Tao, (according to your belief).

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

The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on Him sincerely. Psalm 145:18

Sincerity and truth are the basis of every virtue. Confucius

Of course, we may be sincere and be mistaken. The point is not to be right; the point is to be sincere. We cannot always be right, but we can always be sincere. However badly we screw up and however hard things get, if we are sincere the universe will always ‘see us right’ in the end.

Better is the wrong with sincerity, rather than the right with falsehood. Martin Farquhar Tupper

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

Sincerity is moral truth. George H. Lewes

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

So as we can see, and as we shall see, sincerity is a powerful virtue that we should cultivate and value at all times. It is much more than just being truthful in our speech, although that is a large part of it. It has far-reaching consequences. And if you doubt this and would have a powerful example, you have only to look at the sub-prime mortgage collapse, the packaging of dubious mortgages into derivative securities of unknown value, the subsequent crisis of confidence in the credit markets and the financial system, and the deep global recession it has created. All this for want of sincerity.
Times of hardship have now come upon the land. Let us turn to our treasure. Let us find our strength again in sincerity.

There is no time so miserable but a man may be true. Shakespeare
Photo by Angelthenomad at Picasa

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Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond