The essence of sincerity

There are many fears that paralyze our capacity to grow and be happy. For example, we have the fear of making mistakes; the fear of placing our life in ruin; the fear of what people think or may think of us; and the fear of becoming a laughingstock. The list is endless. These fears block us from responding to Christ’s mission that is summarized in John 10:10: “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” It is virtually impossible for many of us to live a full life because of our fears. Ultimately, we become sad people without the capacity to celebrate the goodness of God among us.

A poor image of God incapacitates many people from living a full life. God for them is an angry or sad person who has no tolerance for happiness. Some also think that God has no time to smile. As a result, being a Christian for them entails a life of seriousness and sombre expressions.

Of course, we need to be serious, we have to be conscientious of our lifestyle and we have to be always on the lookout for things that may tempt us. However, the problem is not with being conscientious. The problem is with our obsession with being conscientious. This obsession blocks our spiritual insight from seeing what God wills of us – to live to the fullest in happiness. It blinds us from the capacity to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes, when we fall and when we miss the mark. This obsession is perfectionism. Indeed, God wants us to love perfectly, but he does not want us to be perfectionists. Perfectionism dispossesses us of the capacity to forgive and love ourselves when we fail to attain our goals. It clogs our spiritual and psychological wellbeing with many fears, chief among them, the fear of making mistakes.

To overcome our fears, we can adapt into our lives the attitude of people who are good at learning and mastering new languages. Most of these people say that their secret lies in their fearlessness in making mistakes. Some say that a person can never learn a new language unless they are willing to make as many mistakes as possible. It is in making mistakes that one is corrected. Conversely, perfectionists hardly attempt learning anything new for fear of exposing their frailties.

If we are to make any progress, what matters is our sincerity, not our effectiveness in performing our duties well. Sincerity keeps us focused when we stumble or make mistakes. It also allows us to forgive ourselves. It enables us keep on trying without fear of making mistakes. Sincerity builds desire. It gives us the determination to embark on anything without the fear of becoming a laughingstock. Sincerity gives us the humility to ask God and others for what we lack. When we are sincere, we are teachable and we are able to offer help to others without belittling them.

What ultimately matters before God is our sincerity of heart, not our perfect knowledge and the faultless articulation of our duties.

Fr Gilbert Banda SJ

Fr Gilbert Banda SJ is interested in Ignatian Spirituality.

g.banda@jesuitinstitute.org.za @gilbertbanda
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