Sincerity and integrity — how these work post-truth and how to spot a manipulator

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Diogenes Searching for an Honest Man, attributed to J.H.W Tischbein (c. 1780). Source:

We all seem to have some vague understanding of sincerity and integrity. But what are they practically? The post-truth, as a term, has been floating in the media sphere for some time now, but are we aware of the techniques of the post-truth manipulator and how best to spot and respond to them?

By the end of reading this article you will get an understanding and tips around these three key sets of questions:

1. What is sincerity and integrity? Why should you bother about those values?

2. Is it possible to be sincere without integrity? And if so, what are the consequences?

3. What is the modern concept of post-truth? How do sincerity and integrity relate to it and how to spot a post-truth manipulator?

Sincerity is about truth. Integrity is about agreement

Sincerity is nothing but a devotion to truth. One might even say a love for truth. In other words, a sincere person can’t deliberately speak a lie. On the other hand, integrity is the lack of conflict. There is no disagreement as everything is integrated — your head and heart sing to each other in unison. Therefore, your mind and body are one.

A good way to consolidate our understanding of concepts is by looking at examples of their opposites. Here are some trivial but informative examples of insincere and disintegrating behaviour:

· You owe somebody £538. You give to the person £600. The other person says he’ll give you the difference the next day. Instead, you never hear back from the person who takes a blank eye on the change.

· You have an argument with your partner. As you feel things are getting out of your control, you want to put some pressure on. In a month time you are asked to pickup the car from the washing station at 5.30pm because your partner has a last minute meeting during this time. You agree to pick the car but deliberately go back home. When asked why, the answer is “I forgot”.

· Experts say that vaccinating your children is paramount to their health, as well as societal safety. Such a perspective is supported by evidence-based studies. Nevertheless you tell yourself and others that you don’t care what the experts say and prevent your children from taking part in the vaccination programme.

The reason it is good for you to hold dear the virtues of sincerity and integrity and to apply them, is pretty simple: in this way you create the necessary conditions to live in harmony with yourself as well as others. And this means that you have more of peace and less of anxiety. The beauty of sincerity and integrity is that you can never be caught up.

It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living pleasantly

Epicurus, Principal Doctrines

Sincerity without integrity is possible but at a huge cost

It seems that the best course of action is to combine sincerity and integrity together. However this is not necessary. You can be sincere without integrity. What that means is that you speak the truth, but you don’t care about the coherence of your beliefs and actions. The consequence is that you live upon flawed views about the world. And when this occurs you are at the risk of taking ‘wrong’ decisions — wrong in the sense of being somehow detrimental to the world, which ultimately translates to detrimental to you because you are not separate from the world but part of it. For instance, you might sincerely go on take part in xenophobic nationalist demonstrations. Nevertheless if you take a birds eye view from the International Space Station, you won’t see the borders between the countries, the same way they were drown in secondary school geography classes.

When I first looked back at the Earth, standing on the Moon, I cried

Alan Shepard, Apollo 14 astronaut

Post-truth is about deception through appeals of emotion resulting in a net zero or negative effect

Post-truth as a term is a fairly recent invention, but as a problem faced by humanity, is as old as the dawn of civilization. It is a political and social culture whereby groups or individuals leverage or target the emotional side of people with no consideration for reason. In practice it results in a repeated surge of “talking points” that induce emotion without looking at expert opinion. Typically the emotions induced are of negative nature, such as fear, anger, jealousy, tribalism, territorialism & xenophobia. However post-truth manipulator may also use what some may call a positive emotion, like inducing a misbalanced excitement.

It is possible to dissect the anatomy of post-truth. In this system we have two sides — the manipulator and the manipulates whose approval is required by the manipulator. The dynamics between the two can be summarized in these steps:

1. The manipulator has a specific, typically but not necessarily, political goal

2. The manipulator targets manipulates leveraging appeals of emotion at the expense of truth, kindness and ethical conduct. For example, the manipulator may undertake the spreading of outright lies and misinformation

3. The manipulator gains benefit but the effect taken in totality is either net zero or negative

The last point is very important. Yes, that’s true, president Donald Trump may have benefited from his campaign but I question whether the resulting effects of the campaign on the society were good. So we end up net zero. Or even worse we end up minus hundred.

Next time somebody is repeating the same point over and over again, and is refusing to even listen to the alternative point of view, or if you notice in yourself or others the rise of negative emotions, stop and consider whether you might be dealing with post-truth manipulator. With sincerity and integrity in place you’ll be on a journey of discovery that will help you respond, not react, with wisdom to those tactics.