On Sincerity

Over a year ago I had an argument with a blogger in which he accused me of insincerity. One of his blog friends looked at the exchange and said that actually, I was sincere “to a fault.”

This was very interesting and I have thought about it since from time to time. I was first accused of insincerity as a very small child. Like the main character in Breaking the Waves I thought then at that if I were all sincere, all the time, I might not have to suffer these attacks on my integrity. (I also thought, of course, that if I could make just the right sacrifice, my parents would not have to suffer so much.)

The root problem in Reeducation was that it was an attack on integrity. And now I have theorized that the root problem in bullying in general is that it is an attack on integrity. Now I am theorizing that the way I collude in bullying of myself is by being sincere to a fault.

What is it to be sincere to a fault? I theorize that it is to always assume deep levels of sincerity elsewhere. If one gives this up, then one can stop colluding in one’s own bullying without sacrificing any of one’s own sincerity. By doing so, one would actually increase one’s level of integrity. I believe even Gracian would say that.


Obliquely related is that I have been noticing lately how times have changed, because we have many job candidates. All the women candidates know their rights and assume that these will be respected. This is very different from how things were when I was in graduate school.

In those days the extent of our knowledge was that 1. if married, one should hide it, because one would not be taken seriously. 2. one would have to accomplish twice as much as a man, and one should plan for that. 3. one should expect open misogyny and counter it. Now, women candidates with families actually volunteer this information. They also know that really blatant sexism will not be allowed. And they have been coached in countering and handling more covert forms of discrimination.

The skills I did not learn when young were those some members of racial and ethnic minorities had in first, recognizing and second, maintaining dignity in the face of discrimination. In those days I thought I was weak to even think I needed such skills. How could I, when I was not a member of any of the most heavily targeted groups? thought I. They must be going through more Hell than I could imagine, so I should not think I needed skills like theirs.

Of course this guilt ridden reasoning was muddy, and I did need those skills. My college roommate, a minority woman scientist, says that in school and at work she has always faced much more gender than racial discrimination, although I would guess it has always been both.


5 thoughts on “On Sincerity

  1. If you are sincere all the time, then you risk holding yourself hostage to the whims of insincere people. I’m not saying that you do this, but there are some sincere people who are angry at the world for not being, well, sincere, and they can be passive aggressive whenever others are operating on a somewhat different principle.

    However, I was trapped not by the principle of sincerity, but by the principle of truthfulness. I once tried to hold the world hostage by internalising the principle that if only I was truthful, the world owed me respect and validation. Boy, did I learn the hard way that I couldn’t do this (impose this principle of exchange on the world).

  2. It’s possible that I do that, I’m not sure – but mostly I martyrize myself, perhaps if I make a blood offering they’ll stop attacking integrity.

    But I think the attacks on integrity are part of the attacks on smart women, and that it just took me this long to understand – and understand that *increasing* integrity (if that were possible) or actually sacrificing it (saying what did I do that you felt was dishonest, I will do something else so that you do not say so), would not help.

  3. Yeah, I agree with what you say about the attacks on smart women. These do seem to try to undermine self-confidence in order to control us — and we do feel that these kinds of attacks undermine our adult integrity.

    Here is more on the topic (Echidne and myself).

  4. I delved into a little bit of Vallejo — and my thoughts are only intermittently clear today, because of some huge bush fires all around Perth, which fill the air with a veil of smoke — but I liked what I read. His work, though, is light and airy, like opening a window here and there and letting in all sorts of breezes (non-smoke filled of course). I think his tone is also aloof and like a creature of the air — a hang-glider maybe. Marechera’s writing is of mud and earth. It’s sinewy and reaches up from the ground like climbing vines to strangle you. Perhaps there are some differences here.

  5. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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