Word origins and their histories are fascinating, especially the sometimes very creative stories that grow up around them. Etymology is the study of the origins and history of words. It was a fun hobby of my dad’s and he would enthusiastically regale me with some newly discovered history of a common word or phrase.
As an example, “POSH Accommodations”. As we now understand the term, it means the best kind of 5 star, luxury place to stay, expensive and usually out of our budget. The term was originally of British nautical creation, an acronym describing the best cabins in ships traveling south to Africa… Port Out, Starboard Home meant that heading south the cabins on the left (Port) side enjoyed the warming sunrise but were shaded in the hot afternoon. The opposite (Starboard) side of the ship was best on the way home.
I recently learned a new word origin that reminded me of Dad. We know the word “Sincere” means honesty and earnest truthfulness, without hypocrisy or deception. A fable that surrounds its origin is quite interesting. It seems that it is a combination of two originally Latin words, sine meaning without and cere meaning wax. The story goes that craftspeople (here’s where the telling differs) either goldsmiths and their cast jewelry or potters and their pots or sculptors and their marble statues used wax to hide the cracks and flaws. Clearly deception in the marketplace! And so Sine Cere was imprinted on goods with the highest verified quality and thus yields our current word and meaning today.
In these current times, example, of truth and honesty seem to be hard to find. Is there a day when you don’t doubt the sincerity of the news or the people in it? Yet, as soon as I attach the “current” qualifier, it occurs to me that it has always been so, just like those ancient goldsmiths. We have always been subject to lies and deception. But also true is the fact that we highly value truthfulness, we demand it of others and teach it to our children, we hope for it despite the evidence around us.
Recently I was meeting with a guy in prison who assured me of his truthfulness, his sincerity was punctuated with strained self-control and choked back tears. Frankly I doubted his truthfulness. This conversation was in sharp contrast to his earlier exaggerated boasting, blaming others for his current situation and general victimized state of mind. What changed? He had a genuine encounter; a bottom of the pit encounter with God. He now expressed a very different kind of reality where he took responsibility for his part in the destructive life he lived and yet factually evaluated the difficult circumstances in which he grew up. Jesus met him at the crossroads. He had written out his story, done some heart heavy fact checking and prayed for clarity. In the end, only God knows the whole truth, but He does.
Not many of us will encounter the harsh reality of the state prison system yet we all feel a need to justify our behavior at times. Most of us will never need to hit rock bottom to find Christ and yet there is the reality of a world racked with deceit; our world, the one we live in everyday. Among many truthful and sincere things Jesus said, “Yet a time is coming when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24
We set aside ALR weekends to focus on our relationship with God. It is a great opportunity to explore the full truthfulness of that relationship; to genuinely understand what it means to live in spirit and truth. Personally, I want to live honestly with Jesus, out of that will grow complete honesty with others around me. Besides… He knows the truth anyway! Register today for the next Abundant Life Retreat. We'd love to have you with us.
Sincerely Yours, Steve