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

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Oct 13, 2015
In this photo taken on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, Syrian armored vehicles get ready to move near the village of Morek in Syria. The Syrian army has launched an offensive this week in central and northwestern Syria aided by Russian airstrikes. (AP)

Russia’s big power play in Syria, the US response, and where this could go.

Oct 13, 2015
The bare landscape of Crimea, Ukraine, offers little protection in warfare, and German infantrymen hug the ground to escape enemy fire, Jan. 7, 1942.  (AP)

We’ll talk with historian Tim Snyder, who sees resource wars behind past genocides and says climate change now raises the danger again.

Oct 12, 2015
A portion of the cover of Larissa MacFarquhar's new book, "Strangers Drowning." (Penguin Press / Courtesy The Publishers)

An extreme commitment to others. Larissa MacFarquhar joins us with stories of those who sacrifice almost everything to do good.

Oct 12, 2015
Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman talks on his phone outside the newly constructed jail as prisoners are transferred into the facility in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AP)

Step one in sentencing reform: 6,000 federal prisoners will go free at the end of this month. We’ll dig in.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Meet The Interns, Fall 2015
Friday, Oct 9, 2015

Meet our Fall 2015 interns! (Better late than never, right?)

More »
Our Week In The Web: October 9, 2015
Friday, Oct 9, 2015


More »
Rep. Daniel Webster: ‘I’m Gonna Sell This Message’
Tuesday, Oct 6, 2015

When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced his retirement and resignation from his position last month, it surprised both his Party and the Washington political establishment.

More »