Medieval Mondays: The Art of Sincerity

Sculpture

There are two disputed theories about the origin of the word “Sincere.” Whether or not they are accurate, they still create an interesting connection, and one that my mind has been pondering for the last two days.

Sincere comes from two words which, when put together, literally mean “Without Wax.” How does that relate to a word which today invokes thoughts of truth and authenticity?

According to some sources, the word comes from artists who would create beautifully detailed sculptures. If a mistake was made, an artist could use wax to correct and cover it up. However, it was a greater testament to their talent for a sculpture to be “Sincere” or without wax. Another theory connected to this origin of the word comes from 15th century bricklayers. If they wanted to cut corners and increase their profits, dishonest masons would use wax instead of another type of bonding agent between the bricks. So, it was doubly important for a building at this time to be considered “Sincere.”

Allow me to go deeper for a moment.

Sincerity is encouraged, especially in our relationships. We are encouraged to be “earnest” and “genuine,” embracing synonyms such as “wholehearted” and “heartfelt.” However, as with Medieval sculptures, all sincerity–all truth– comes with a price. I would be willing to bet that a “Sincere” work of art would have cost a great deal more than one with wax.

And this is true for us today. Sincere relationships always cost us something. We have to take risks with our hearts to make these relationship work. And the truth is, there are some people who simply prefer the wax. They don’t want to see or handle our imperfections. They prefer us glossed over.

This is where my problem with sincerity lies. You see a modern definition of this word says, “Honest and unaffected in a way that shows what is said is really meant.” Unaffected… I don’t know about you, but when my sincerity and my wholeheartedness is met with opposition, when I feel even the hint that my waxless state is burdensome or bothersome, my sincerity becomes deeply affected.

In those moments, I become hyper-aware of myself and my imperfections. I want to cover myself in wax–to hide my feelings, my opinions, and my heart from everyone.

But, relationships and decisions and moments which are built upon this wax will never last. As the 15th century bricklayers demonstrate, with the right conditions, buildings that were constructed using wax would simply crumble apart. The bonds between the bricks were not strong and true.

I want my relationships to be strong and true. I want my sincerity to come from a deeper place, unaffected by the opinions or comments of others. I want to accept my imperfections as part of the process, not something to be covered up and hidden away.

This is the art of sincerity, and this is where I am at on the journey.

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