Philip III of Spain put the Duque of Osuna in charge of the land of Naples. The Duque of Osuna went to visit the prison on the festival day of that prison. There was a tradition to release one of the prisoners on that day. Before releasing a prisoner, he first asked each of them the reason they were there, in order to get to know them better and to make a good decision about releasing the one who most deserved it. Of course, each one said: “I am innocent, I am here by mistake.” However, there was one who did not say that, but rather he admitted that he was guilty and out of justice he was there.
After talking with each one he made the decision of which one to release and made the announcement with some irony: “Throw this criminal out of this jail so that he does not corrupt all the good people who are locked up here.”
Sincerity and honesty always free us, while lying or pretending always make us remain in jail, in the jail of our passions. For this reason, sincerity and honesty are always beneficial to us, even if they do not always bring us practical benefits as we saw in this anecdote. Sometimes we think that it is more beneficial for us to hide the truth, particularly when we are talking about our mistakes and defects, rather than to tell the truth. However, this is not true.
If I am used to hiding my mistakes and defects or to justifying them (which is a subtle way to deny or hide them) I become a slave of them because I am not fighting against them. If I do not fight against them, I, as a defeated person, allow them to dominate myself and I become a slave of them.
On the other hand, sincerity gives us freedom of spirit. A sincere person is free of astuteness to pretend what in reality he is not. Sincerity is related to truth and truth as Our Lord said will set you free (Jn 8:32).
Sincerity makes us commit ourselves to the truth, particularly the truth about ourselves which allows us to distinguish between the real and the imaginary, what is right and what is wrong. Sincerity helps our conscience to call our attention when we are going to do something wrong. On the contrary, lack of sincerity, little by little, silence our conscience and make it not pay attention to nor condemn our bad actions.
However, sincerity also has its limits. One important limit is modesty or pudor. Being sincere does not mean that I have to publish my sins or tell everything to everyone. Rather, sincerity means telling the right thing to the right person. Both things are important: I am not practicing the virtue of sincerity when I am not saying the right thing nor am I practicing the virtue of sincerity when I am saying the right thing to the wrong person.