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March '05 Character Quality -- Sincerity
the following editorial article was written by Gloria Cooper for publication in The Paris News --
Have you ever wondered where the term “The Real McCoy” came from?  There really was a
man named McCoy – an Elijah McCoy, in fact, in the late 1800’s.  A son of escaped slaves
during the Civil War, he went to Edinburgh, Scotland, and became the “master mechanic and
engineer of Scotland.” After the war he came back to America and, after many attempts to find a
job, he obtained one as a firefighter for the Michigan Central Railroad.  Realizing that factory
machines and even trains had to be shut down numerous times a day for servicing, Elijah gave
his all for a new idea – an automatic lubricator.  In 1872, he patented his invention, and ten
years later, it was used widely all over the United States on heavy machines, locomotives, and
other items.  Other competitors attempted to create lubricators, but Elijah’s invention was such a
better quality that his customers insisted on having “The Real McCoy.”  Throughout his lifetime,
he invented and filed fifty-seven patents, including the folding ironing board and lawn
sprinklers.  However, he is remembered most for his excellence that never wavered.  Elijah
McCoy was sincere in his work.

Sincerity is actually Latin for “without wax.”  In the early centuries pottery makers would inscribe
“sine cere” in their wares to assure their customers that the pots were honestly created without
wax – a common practice to cover the cracks made when the pot was fired.  Olympic track and
field champion as well as missionary, Eric Liddell explained this to his students one day.  It was
obvious that one student understood the meaning when at the end of a letter, he wrote, “To
Yours sincerely sir, without wax.”

Sincerity is eagerness to do what is right with transparent motives. This means we have no
hidden agenda. It is the opposite of hypocrisy, which is pretending to be one way while actually
living another.  It is not faking a friendship to gain anything or criticizing something that you
secretly practice yourself.  You have heard the saying, “all that glitters is not gold.”  Sincerity
would be the gold; hypocrisy would be fool’s gold.  

There are five ways to build sincerity.  Say what you mean, then mean what you say.  Practice
what you preach.  No one likes to be told something, and then turn around and observe that
person doing the complete opposite.  Reject hypocrisy.  Finally, but certainly not lastly, show
your true colors.  When you see that you need some work in a certain area, take care of that
area, adjust your thinking to live the truth, and do not be satisfied with outward appearance only.

Benjamin Franklin defined sincerity this way:  “Use no hurtful deceit.  Think innocently and justly;
if you speak, speak accordingly.”  Sincerity goes deeper than simple consistency.  It is
faithfulness to high standards of excellent character.  Take responsibility, be honest, and
maintain a clear purpose.  All of us will benefit from sincerity, and the rewards are endless.  As
we practice sincerity, we will become more observant of others practicing this vital quality, and
we will gain respect for them and they for us.  An old Latin Proverb says, “Sincerity gives wings
to power.”  Next time you use the term, “That’s the real McCoy,” think about the character quality
of sincerity.
Portions of this article have been adapted from Character First! materials.  For more information about the
Character First! program and resources contact:  Character Training Institute, 520 W. Main Street, Oklahoma
City, OK  73102,  (405) 815-0001. Visit the Character Council of Red River Valley at
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