“And this I pray… that ye may be sincere and without offence.” (Philippians 1:9-10)
To be sincere is to be in reality what one appears to be: not feigned; not assumed; genuine, real, and true. How much value we all place upon sincerity! What a low estimate we place upon the friendship of a person who proves not to be sincere, who, when to her advantage, snubs and ignores us. How we despise the actions of one who is lavish with expressions of love and kindness to our face, but who backbites us in our absence! We care nothing for her friendship, and her very expressions of affection are obnoxious. Is it not true that we expect and demand sincerity of our friends?
To be sincere is to be honest; honest with self and honest with others. Honesty costs something. To be truly honest is not always the easiest path. It is an easy matter to deceive ourselves and to make ourselves believe we are doing right, when down in our hearts we know we are doing wrong. A man might give to a good cause and make himself believe he is doing right, when deep in his heart he must know he gives to gain praise of the people. A girl might make herself think she is studying because she is bent over a book, when she knows her thoughts are all upon the party to which she is going. A boy may make himself think he is smart and manly because he smokes, when deep down in his heart he knows he is being both disobedient and deceitful. There are indeed many ways one may deceive himself. Sometimes men have given liberally to a good cause, hoping that their good deed would even up an act of dishonesty. Many a church or hospital or school has been endowed because the giver thought his doing so would smother his feelings of regret or soothe the fretting of a wounded conscience. Temptation to such insincerity has come to us in little things or greater, but the sincere heart will not yield.
To be honest with self means to look things over with an unfeigned heart and to do right because it is right. When we do good that we might appear right in spite of deception in the heart, we deceive ourselves. If we are trying this, our true selves will come out when we least expect it. Perhaps more people deceive themselves than are ever deceived by others. It pays to be honest with ourselves all the time.
It is just as necessary to be honest toward others in every act. It was a bitterly cold morning and Betty buttoned her coat up close to her throat as she knew her mother wished her to do. But it was not because of the cold that she obeyed her mother so carefully about her coat. That morning she had put on a blouse which her mother had asked her not to wear to school and the buttoned coat hid it from her mother’s eyes. Betty was both disobedient and dishonest. We sometimes think that honesty pertains only to money matters. It is true that we should always be honest to the last penny in all business dealings, but honesty also touches every other department of life. To copy or to take advantage in any other way at school in order to gain a grade is just as dishonest in its nature as to steal, or to forge a note. The principle is the same, the difference being only in the magnitude of the deed. To take advantage of the teacher’s back being turned to play pranks is also dishonest. To pretend friendship which one does not feel, to smile and approve to the face and laugh to the back, to be two-faced in anything, is mean and dishonest. Honesty or dishonesty is shown in every little act of life. It is the honest boy or girl who makes the honest citizen. They are the ones whose lives and influence amount to real good in the world’s work.
To be sincere is to be hearty; that is, to enter into all we do with all our might. She who is sincere will give the best of herself to whatever work she undertakes. Even the humblest tasks become noble if they are performed heartily. It is a pleasure to watch a girl wash dishes or sweep a floor if she does it with a hearty good will. As for practicing music or studying a lesson, more will be accomplished in half the time if the work is undertaken heartily. The girl who does her work that way is a bit of sunshine in the home. God bless her! She is a comfort and joy.
The sincere girl always makes a satisfactory worker wherever she is put. She does her work with a reasonable degree of rapidity and with a will as if she enjoyed it. Whether she works in an office, in the schoolroom, in the factory, or in the kitchen, whether her work brings her good pay, or whether she is a busy home toiler who gets only her board and clothes, if she is sincere and willing she will be a success. Her eye is not on the clock to see if her time is about up, but her whole attention is upon what she is doing.
Sincere people are hearty in their friendships. Did you ever put your hand into the hand of a friend and have her grasp it with a hearty good will, and look you in the face with a friendly greeting? Did it not do you good? It does others just as much good if you greet them heartily. Again, I have offered my hand to women who gave me the tips of their fingers in a delicate, afraid-of-you manner that chilled all my ardor. I did not like it, and others will not like it if you meet them that way. The handshake is quite an index to people’s hearts. Those who are hearty and sincere are not afraid to let you know it.
To be sincere is to be unfeigned—no pretension, no putting on. The girl who is sincere means every word she says when she is expressing love and friendship. I need not fear that she is only trying to make an impression on me, nor that she is getting my confidence only to ridicule me later. She is no turncoat and no traitor. It seems to me a girl can have no greater fault than feigning friendship and affection she does not feel. Those who are sincere are real. They are real friends, real students, real sisters, real Christians.
To be sincere is to be frank. Frankness helps a girl to speak right out from the heart what she thinks and feels. But there is a very unpleasant trait that sometimes passes as frankness. That is a disposition to say cutting things. There are many things that are better left unsaid. Even though circumstances have given ample room for severe criticism, it is better to keep the bitter word unsaid, and to speak kindly. Frankness does not mean that we shall tell people what we think of them and their doings on all occasions. True frankness shows in clear, honest eyes and in a gaze of purity and truth, which brings confidence to all who see it. It will speak out of the eyes when the lips are silent. She who is frank keeps nothing back that changes the meaning of what she says.
Beautiful girlhood can hold no more attractive nor lovable trait than sincerity. When a girl can look with honest eyes and perfect sincerity into life, and can meet the temptations that are sure to come with a heart sincerely set to do God’s will, that girl will succeed. Her life will be a blessing to many. Old and young will be encouraged and strengthened by her presence and friendship.