Sincerity. It’s not quite ‘genuine’ but close. It’s much more than ‘nice’ or ‘pleasant.’ It implies ‘honest’ but that doesn’t quite explain it either.
Sincerity is the word that came to me while planning a partner yoga class I’ll be teaching with my husband and a concept I’d like to explore in writing. It begins with thinking of all the tricks partner yoga and acrobatics have taught me over the last several years. Sure, I learned to do balance on someone’s feet, do handstands on their hands, and swing through the air before landing lightly. But there’s something so much more that this practice must begin and end with for it to work. If you’re not careful doing advanced moves, you’re in real physical danger. If myself and my acrobatic partner weren’t on the same page, the ground is not very forgiving. So, every mount and dismount requires presence and communication. Eye contact and synchronized breath. That’s a pretty intimate way to make someone’s acquaintance! But when there’s very little room for error without imminent danger, we do what we necessarily have to do. Even so, sometimes things don’t quite work out. Sometimes my base (the strong person lifting me) didn’t quite put his foot in the right place, or wasn’t quite grounded when I lept into his arms. Or was he, and I wasn’t wielding my weight quite right, or I overshot the mount? Maybe we didn’t communicate the move thoroughly enough before we tried it, or one of us is a little more familiar with the trick than the other.
In case you haven’t noticed yet, this isn’t about acrobatics at all, it’s about relationships. It’s about working together, trusting, communicating, and fully showing up. You can’t half-ass acrobatics and expect to not fall, and you can’t half-ass your marriage and expect it not to fail. This showing up happens in layers. First, you’re there physically. There’s an attraction, chemical reaction, flirtation, exploration. Then somewhere along the way, the relationship is tested with emotional demands. Daily stressors or personal differences lead to a fight. All of the sudden, showing up means something different. It means being uncomfortable and doing it anyway, it means continuing to listen even when you ‘know’ you’re the one that’s right. It means meeting someone else’s needs because they need you to, not because it’s your first choice of what to do that day. It means biting your tongue when your impulse is to micro-manage their cooking style or poke holes in their weak argument over who does more of the grunt work. It means listening quietly for as long as it takes for your partner’s frustration over work problems to release the proverbial pressure valve. Because beneath these feelings of frustration, or defensiveness is real sadness, fear, anger, or shame that most of the world can’t be bothered to care about. That is our job as partners. To stay awake when we feel like going to bed. To listen word for word when our tendency is to mentally plan how we’re going to respond. To not internalize or personalize their outbursts because odds are their sadness and shame has very little to do with you. You are their safe place where they let it out however they feel and the landing you create for them is soft and affirming.
This brings me to sincerity. Which is more than just ‘nice’ or ‘honest.’ Think about it: who’s to say nice is honest and honesty is nice? A friend of mine once said, ‘I’d rather hang out with an honest asshole than a nice liar.’ Another, wiser, friend of mine once said, ‘You can be honest without being an asshole.’ Well, the moral of this story is that it is possible to be both at the very same time. Sincerity is a quality embodied within ‘nice honesty.’ A skill, perhaps, of expressing thoughts and feelings without throwing daggers or telling little white lies. For instance, learning how to tell someone you’re not interested without putting them down but also not buying a product you don’t really want out of sympathy for the salesman.
"You can be honest without being an asshole."
I believe our world could use much more of this. It’s damn hard these days to carve an authentic place for ourselves while navigating symptoms of patriarchy, systems of class, and social status. Remembering that we’re all here together simply trying to love and be loved is a good start. I think it’s important to also mention that expressing ourselves sincerely doesn’t always mean hard feelings will be spared. These hard feelings are a necessary response the natural world so generously provides to guide us toward a clearer path. It could look something like this example from my life:
Some of the hardest and most important acts of sincerity I’ve received in my past were when I used to displace a lot of deep, old trauma anger toward people close to me. I found my friends generally responding to me in two ways: ‘I love you, but you’re being a jerk and I just won’t tolerate it. I want you out of my life, bye.’ And, ‘I think you’re being a jerk but I love you anyways. Let me hug you close.’ Both of these responses expressed honesty, and didn’t sacrifice respectfulness, but also weren’t very easy for me to hear. Nonetheless, these acts of sincerity taught me (in hindsight) about how I truly wish to present myself and what it means to be a sincere friend.
Expressing yourself with sincerity involves a responsibility to also be willing to accept sincerity. It’s a two way street prompted by asking questions out of genuine curiosity, not reacting to the answers, and not blaming or shaming another for their feelings - but instead having your own feelings and accepting theirs as true for them. You may find that sincerity is profoundly satisfying to both deliver and receive.
So, if you should choose, you have an opportunity to expand the depth of realness in your life. It begins with recognizing when you’re reacting hastily instead of calmly responding. It’s contingent on your ability to quietly examine when you’re making a decision solely out of sympathy or out of spite for someone. It means not fearing words like 'love' and 'sorry' - equally. It’s practiced by becoming clear on who you trust and showing up fully - discomfort, tears, fights, and all. Blessings on your journey.