I love finding out about the origins and meanings of language. I especially like it when the word or phrase has an almost mathematical precision. ‘Psychology’, for example, is comprised of the words ‘psyche’ (meaning mind, thought) and ‘ology’ (the study of). It’s a precise word, it has clear origins and a calculated meaning.
'Sincere' is another one of those words – a compounding of the Latin words ‘sine cera’, meaning ‘without wax’. In Ancient Rome, dishonest dealers in marble and pottery would conceal the cracks in their inferior products by rubbing them with wax. The Roman Senate passed a law barring this deceit, and to show that their products were authentic and without defect, dealers would display them with labels proudly declaring that they were made ‘sine cera’ – without wax. From this comes our modern day word, ‘sincere’, meaning ‘without deceit’.
I don’t think that being sincere means to be flawless, though. I think it’s about truth – a thing being exactly what it says it is without pretention.
Interestingly, the Japanese used to do exactly the opposite to the Ancient Romans: if an item was cracked or damaged, they would mend it with gold so that instead of concealing the flaw, they emphasised it. They believed that if something had been broken and mended, it was more beautiful - it had a history, it was made different and more interesting. It was unique.
I think that ties in quite nicely with my idea of sincerity – not trying to pretend to be something other than you are, but proudly demonstrating your whole character, faults and all. And showing that even flaws can be beautiful.
There is a Stephen Hawking quote that I love: Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.
So let's celebrate the things that make us who we are. And if there are things we don't like about ourselves, rather than trying to hide them from people or bury them under our shame and fear, let's work on mending them instead. Not so that other people will think more highly of us, but because working to improve ourselves and being honest about our struggles is what makes us human, and beautiful.