Authenticity vs. Sincerity

Joe goes into work in the morning and promptly heads over to the coffee machine.  In general, he only drinks two or three cups a week—far from a steady habit.  This particular morning, he’s reasonably awake and in good spirits, and so he doesn’t feel like he particularly needs a coffee, but nonetheless he thought it would be a nice little treat.

Before he pours himself a mug he notices there’s only enough coffee left for one more cup (and there’s not enough beans left to make more!).  He loosely knows there’s still three or four people who haven’t even arrived to work yet and at least one of them is generally grumpy and irritable until they’ve had a little caffeine.  Nonetheless, they haven’t arrived yet and if he did take the last cup, no one would ever know.

If Joe were a highly “authentic” person, how might he handle this situation?

It’s tough to say, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he went ahead and drank that last cup—after all, he was in the mood and then walked all the way to the coffee room, clearly illustrating that he did actually want it.

Alternatively, if Joe were a highly “sincere” person, how might he handle this situation?

My gut feeling is that a highly sincere Joe wouldn’t drink that last cup.  Both authenticity and sincerity imply some kind of “being true to oneself”, no pretenses, totally natural and genuine; but, with sincerity there’s also connotations of caring about others, of warmth and considerateness.

I believe this is because a sincere person has a more expansive sense of self.

The “purely authentic” Joe is only true to Joe himself.  What Joe wants, Joe does.  There is very little if any filter about what that means for the rest of the world—in other words, Joe could be authentically a total jerk.

On the other hand, while a sincere Joe still values himself and honors his own needs and wants, he has also internalized the feelings and perspectives of other people.  In this way, when his co-worker has that last cup of coffee and instantly gets a big boost of aliveness, Joe actually feels happy inside.  Or, when sincere Joe finds out another co-worker just lost a parent, he’ll instantly feel a wave of compassion and likely be one of the first to offer kind words, a hug or support.

Sincere Joe acts and feels this way because on a very deep level, he actually experiences his sense of self as including his friends, family, co-workers and fellow humans—regardless of race, profession, political/religious leanings or nationality.  He takes heartfelt joy in the well-being of others.  He is saddened when others are suffering.  He actually cares.

In more pragmatic terms, sincerity = authenticity + empathy.

Think about the sincere people you know.  Would you agree?

One thought on “Authenticity vs. Sincerity

  1. Both conclusions are examples of selfishness. Guide avoidance is not the same as empathy. Not taking the last cup forces the next person to face the same moral dilemma — furthermore, the cup of coffee maybe from yesterday. A truly sincere person practicing empathy takes the last cup then make fresh coffee for everyone else. In this path, Joe is sacrificing his time, energy and potential happiness in service to others.

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