The second requirement of a true Baha’i, sincerity toward all, sounds simple on the surface—but it’s not.
Sincerity is the second spiritual attribute Abdu’l-Baha mentioned when he outlined the seven requirements of a true Baha’i:
What are the requirements? Love for mankind, sincerity toward all, reflecting the oneness of the world of humanity, philanthropy, becoming enkindled with the fire of the love of God, attainment to the knowledge of God and that which is conducive to human welfare. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 336.
In the modern sense, the word sincerity has lost quite a bit of its original meaning. We tend to look at it as simply being genuine. Today, describing someone as sincere often means that their actions basically mirror their inner feelings. We think of a sincere person as anyone who doesn’t fake their emotions or opinions.
But the more accurate, classical definition of sincerity means something much broader and greater:
sinˑcere adj. [Latin: sincerus, pure] 1. truthful, honest, of pure intention, faithful.
Sincerity, in a Baha’i context, refers to one of the highest and best human attributes—honor. It asks each one of us to develop the honorable self-respect that can only come to those who act on their inmost and most exalted principles. It asks us to aspire to nobility—one of the two sterling qualities Baha’u’llah describes as “the ultimate goal of human existence:”
Therefore an enlightened man of wisdom should primarily speak with words as mild as milk, that the children of men may be nurtured and edified thereby and may attain the ultimate goal of human existence which is the station of true understanding and nobility. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 173.
So you could think of sincerity as a combination of nobility, truthfulness, trustworthiness and faithfulness, exactly the attributes you would want to see in your marital partner, your children, your best friend, your most trusted confidant, or the people you work with.
If you’d like to test this concept, take a moment and think of the most sincere and honorable person you know. Got it? Now take another moment and reflect on how many of the people you know have those pure qualities. Like gold or diamonds, sincerity and honor are prized, valuable human attributes, probably because they’re so rare. Can you think of anyone?
The Baha’i teachings say that developing our spiritual nature by evincing sincerity and honor “advance humanity toward the nobility of its true and intended station:”
We must strive unceasingly and without rest to accomplish the development of the spiritual nature in man, and endeavor with tireless energy to advance humanity toward the nobility of its true and intended station. For the body of man is accidental; it is of no importance. The time of its disintegration will inevitably come. But the spirit of man is essential and, therefore, eternal. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 58.
Happy is the pure soul who does not attach himself to the transient conditions and comforts, but rather seeks to attach himself to the purity, nobility and splendour of the world which endures. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 3, p. 273.
Actually, if you want to visualize true sincerity, look at the lives of the prophets. Think of the examples that Buddha, Moses, Christ, or Baha’u’llah gave the world—they all suffered in completely sincere, loving and self-abnegating ways so humanity could learn, grow and prosper. The Baha’i writings even say that the prophets reflect God’s whole purpose in revealing the founders of the world’s great Faiths:
The purpose of the one true God in manifesting Himself is to summon all mankind to truthfulness and sincerity, to piety and trustworthiness, to resignation and submissiveness to the Will of God, to forbearance and kindliness, to uprightness and wisdom. His object is to array every man with the mantle of a saintly character, and to adorn him with the ornament of holy and goodly deeds. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 298.
If you’d like to acquire that wonderful quality of sincerity, here are a few recommendations from the Baha’i writings:
Always tell the truth. Keep your word no matter what:
We should at all times manifest our truthfulness and sincerity, nay rather, we must be constant in our faithfulness and trustworthiness, and occupy ourselves in offering prayers for the good of all. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 294.
Think of others first:
The pure heart is one that is entirely cut away from self. To be selfless is to be pure. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 107.
When you embrace truthfulness, trustworthiness and selflessness, you’ll inevitably find that you’ve made yourself and others extremely happy, in a deep and lasting spiritual way:
… the honor of the human kingdom is the attainment of spiritual happiness in the human world, the acquisition of the knowledge and love of God. The honor allotted to man is the acquisition of the supreme virtues of the human world. This is his real happiness and felicity. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 165.