A Case Against Sincerity

With Wade Goodwyn in for Tom Ashbrook.

Why sincerity isn’t all it’s cracked up  to be.

Life-sized masks meant to resemble U.S. presidents, from the left, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton, appear in a store-front window, in the downtown section of Oak Bluffs, Mass. (AP)

Life-sized masks meant to resemble U.S. presidents, from the left, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton, appear in a store-front window, in the downtown section of Oak Bluffs, Mass. (AP)

One of the most important qualities we look for in our dealings with others is sincerity. Whether it’s our significant other or our doctor or the president of the United States, a measure of sincerity is important. Right?

Well maybe not. In a new book , sincerity is  depicted as a vastly overrated quality that has inspired religious wars and gotten in Americans’ way of seeing other people, especially their politicians, clearly.

This hour, On Point.  Are exaggerated claims of sincerity simply a new form of throwing the proverbial dust in the air?

-Wade Goodwyn


R. Jay Magill, author of Sincerity: How A Moral Ideal Born Five Hundred Years Ago Inspired Religious Wars, Modern Art, Hipster Chic, and the Curious Notion that We All Have Something to Say (No Matter How Dull). You can read an excerpt here.

From The Reading List

Boston Globe “Our obsession with sincerity is understandable. It’s clearly a virtue we want in our friends and family, and one that the world would be much worse off without. We want to be able to trust people to do what they say and to stick to what they promised.”

Salon “We yearn for sincerity, on both sides of the aisle, even though we know it’s all a game. An expert explains why.”

Wall Street Journal “There is good reason for caution. Extreme frankness is often called “brutal,” after all, and unbridled truth-telling at all times and in all places would probably result in bloodletting. Despite such doubts, sincerity is a cherished trait. We admire it and feel badly treated when a comment or action, assumed to be heartfelt, turns out to be insincere. Sincerity—broadly speaking, the alignment of outer and inner selves—would seem to be essential to the modern conception of a virtuous life.”


Are you Sincere? by Andy Williams

Honestly Sincere by Marty Wilde

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