Human society is held together by sincerity. A universal falseness would beget a universal mistrust, which would bring about a universal separation, if not destruction. Life is made sane, wholesome, and happy, by our deep-rooted belief in one another. If we did not trust men we could not transact business with them, could not even associate with them. Shakespeare’s "Timon" shows us the wretched condition of man, who, through his own folly, has lost all faith in the sincerity of human nature. He cuts himself off from the company of all men and finally commits suicide. Emerson has something to the effect that if the trust system were withdrawn from commerce, society would fall to pieces; that system being an indication of the universal confidence men place in each other. Business, commonly supposed by the shortsighted and foolish to be all fraud and deception, is based on a great trust—a trust that men will meet and fulfill their obligations. Payment is not asked until the goods are delivered; and the fact of the continuance of this system for ages, proves that most men do pay their debts and have no wish to avoid payment.
Back of all its shortcomings, human society rests on a strong basis of truth. Its fundamental note is sincerity. Its great leaders are all men of superlative sincerity; and their names and achievements are not allowed to perish—proof that the virtue of sincerity is admired by the race.
It is easy for the insincere to imagine that everybody is like themselves, and to speak of the "rottenness of society,"—as though a rotten thing could endure age after age,—for is not every thing yellow to the jaundiced eye? People who cannot see anything good in the constitution of human society, should overhaul themselves. Their trouble is near home. They call good, evil. They have dwelt cynically and peevishly on evil till they cannot see the good, and everything and everybody appears evil. "Society is rotten from top to bottom,” I heard a man say recently; and he asked me if I did not think so. I replied that I should be sorry to think so; that while society had many blemishes, it was sound at the core, and contained within itself the seeds of perfection.
Society, indeed, is so sound that the man who is playing a part for the accomplishment of entirely selfish ends cannot long prosper and cannot fill any place as an influence. He is soon unmasked and disgraced; and the fact that such a man can, for even a brief period, batten on human credulity, speaks well for the trustfulness of men, if it reveals their lack of wisdom.
An accomplished actor on the stage is admired, but the designing actor on the stage of life brings himself down to ignominy and contempt. In striving to appear what he is not, he becomes as one having no individuality, no character, and is deprived of all influence, all power, all success.
A man of profound sincerity is a great moral force, and there is no force—not even the highest intellectual force—that can compare with it. Men are powerful in influence according to the soundness and perfection of their sincerity. Morality and sincerity are so closely bound up together that where sincerity is lacking, morality, as a power is lacking also, for insincerity undermines all other virtues, so that they crumble away and become of no account. Even a little insincerity robs a character of all its nobility, and makes it common and contemptible. Falseness is so despicable a vice that it cannot coexist with character and influence, and no man of moral weight can afford to dally with petty compliments, or play the fool with trivial and conventional deceptions. Let a man resort to deception, howsoever light, in order to please, and he is no longer strong and admirable, but is become a shallow weakling whose mind has no deep well of power from which men can draw, and no satisfying richness to stir in them a worshipful regard.
Even they who are for the moment flattered with the painted lie, or pleased with the deftly-woven deception, will not escape those permanent undercurrents of influence which move the heart and shape the judgment to fixed and final issues, while those designed illusions create but momentary ripples on the surface of the mind.
"I am very pleased with his attentions," said a woman of an acquaintance "but I would not marry him." "Why not?" she was asked. "He doesn’t ring true," was the reply.
Ring true! a term full of meaning. It has reference to the coin which, when tested, emits a sound which reveals the sterling metal throughout, without the admixture of any base material. It comes up to the standard, and will pass anywhere and everywhere for its full value.
So with men. Their words and actions emit their own peculiar influence. There is in them an inaudible sound which all men inwardly hear and instinctively detect.
They know the false ring from the true, yet know not how they know. As the outer ear can make the most delicate distinctions in sound, so the inner ear can make equally subtle distinctions between souls. None are ultimately deceived by the deceiver. It is the blind folly of the insincere that, while flattering themselves upon their successful simulations, they are deceiving none but themselves. Their actions are laid bare before all hearts. There is at the heart of man a tribunal whose judgments do not miscarry. If the senses faultlessly detect, shall not the soul infallibly know! This inner infallibility is shown in the collective judgment of the race. This judgment is perfect; so perfect, that in literature, art, science, invention, religion—in every department of knowledge—it divides the good from the bad, the worthy from the unworthy, the true from the false, zealously guarding and preserving the former, and allowing the latter to perish. The works, words, and deeds of great men are the heirlooms of the race, and the race is not careless of their virtue. A thousand men write a book, and one only is a work of original genius, yet the race singles out that one, elevates and preserves it, while it consigns the nine hundred and ninety-nine copyists to oblivion. Ten thousand men utter a sentence under a similar circumstance, and one only is a sentence of divine wisdom, yet the race singles out that saying for the guidance of posterity, by while the other sentences are heard so more. It is true that the race slays its prophets, but even that slaying becomes a test which reveals the true ring, and men detect its trueness. The slain has come up to the standard, and the deed of his slaying is preserved as furnishing infallible proofs of his greatness.
As the counterfeit coin is detected, and cast back into the melting pot, while the sterling coin circulates among all men, and is valued for its worth, so the counterfeit word, deed, or character is perceived, and is left to fall back into the nothingness from which it emerged, a thing unreal, powerless, dead.
Spurious things have no value, whether they be bric-a-brac or men. We are ashamed of imitations that try to pass for the genuine article. Falseness is cheap. The masquerader becomes a byword; he is less than a man; he is a shadow, a spook, a mere mask. Trueness is valuable. The sound-hearted man becomes an exemplar; he is more than man; he is a reality, a force, a molding principle. By falseness all is lost-—even individuality dissolves—for falseness is nonentity, nothingness. By trueness, everything is gained, for trueness is fixed permanent, real.
More from James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.