The Third Sunday After Epiphany
O Indwelling Lord, who art ever opposed to injustice and hypocrisy, we pray that we may be just and true of heart in all our dealings with our brethren, that we may recognize within them Thy indwelling presence and holy light.
- Collect of the Day
Do not add day to day or cycle to cycle, hoping to come to receive the mysteries when we come to the world in another cycle.
- The Book of Sophia
For they have the value in the eyes of their Father.
- Gospel of Philip
Sincerity is an alignment of the inner to the outer, of ideals and actions, of expectations for oneself and others. This can be of a trivial or ridiculous degree, there are plenty of sincere fools and sincere criminals of all types—some of us vote for them, for example.
We normally think of sincerity as having the outer conform to the inner, but this is not always the case. My father had the disturbing ability not only to believe anything he said, but to sincerely argue that it was true in the face of any inconvenient facts. And, it has been my misfortune to be associated with others who fall into that pattern, even within our small parish. Though this seems an untenable lifestyle, psychological research shows us that the best way to tell a lie and be believed, is if you believe it yourself. So, if there is a way to hide or distract from the actual situation, this ability is actually adaptive in an evolutionary sense, though hell on everyone involved.
Clearly, being sincerely delusional is not the type of sincerity we are espousing. The highly changeable person can only be sincere for a moment at most, as the next moment they may be sincere in a contradictory way. The only way this can happen is if the personality is highly compartmentalized, so that it really is a different unconscious complex that is sincere in a contradictory manner and is unaware of the contradiction. The sincerity that is our focus for today, is both a deep and a life-long sincerity, and as such must be a conscious one.
Honesty isn't at its best as a result of a “Thou Shalt,” but rather as a means of psychological and spiritual integrity. So often we feel pressures to act in a way that is not in accord with our inner selves. In situations were others have power real or imagined, the desire to be liked, to not hurt, or to avoid conflict, leads us to be insincere in an instance. The problem is that this drives a wedge between inner and outer that leads to giving up further autonomy in the situation. It's a slippery slope, and before you know it you are faced with the difficult choice of becoming conscious of your own lack of integrity, or, keeping it out of consciousness by warping yourself around it further.
Where sincerity isn't held onto strongly, the truth has fled behind veils and curtains—it is all a game of smoke and mirrors, a matter of appearances divorced from reality. There is no way to fool yourself or others into liberation, it takes hard work, and the real situation is the material that the work uses.
Often in religious situations, people feel a lot of pressure to conform to ideals of how they 'should' be. It is common in the Mormon culture I live in to deny grief at funerals, people have been told that they should act happy for those who have departed as a sign of their faith. In a funeral talk, I pointed out that there was joy and it was real, and it would still be there after the grief that is also real has passed.
Another, is when people expect themselves or are expected to always act 'nice,' in a Ned Flanders (of The Simpsons) way. This is living in fantasy (or cartoon) land. Someone who can't show an unruly guest the door, is someone who won't have a door for long. If a parish or other group warps itself around the idea that it has to be nice and play by the rules with those who do neither, it will not exist to serve those who aren't there to merely take advantage of such credulity. If you want to accomplish anything, you can't be everyone's friend, and if you are everyone's friend, chances are you don't do much.
The only true guide in making such painful and difficult decisions is Sincerity. No, not in the sense of you sincerely want to not have to deal with them anymore—but rather if it is a choice between dealing with them and remaining sincere; of keeping the relationship or your integrity. Unless you choose the latter, obviously, you are not choosing liberation.
The only way to be sincerely on a spiritual path is to be sincere about where you are and how you are at any given moment, both with yourself and with others who are also sincerely on the path. It is not an exhibition, nor a competition, it is the most real and most important work you can do. The path will take you through many situations, including those where the path seems to disappear. Others have walked the path, and others are walking it now. There is wisdom that can be shared among travelers, but only if you sincerely share. Everyone is welcome to join us on the journey, but they must do the walking themselves. To be sincerely on the path one must walk it, do the work, be on the journey; the alignment between goal and life now, not "tomorrow."
Those who have their sincerity and integrity have themselves, and so do not need to seek their value elsewhere. As the Gospel for the day says, dropping a pearl in the mud doesn't devalue it, nor does oiling it increase its value. Anyone who wants to play 'holier than thou' has already lost, because they are looking to you for their value. For as the Gospel of Thomas reminds us, “When you make the the inner as the outer, and the outer as the inner... then shall you enter the kingdom.” That is the ultimate sincerity to which we aspire—the sincerity and integrity that includes our truest selves: the divine spark, the seed of light. The living Gnosis of the Truth that sets free.