Virtue in the Quality of Insincerity

I came across a reference to Rebecca’s iconic opening lines in Stephen King’s ‘Bag of Bones’, for the first time. Later, the same lines kept popping up in many book lists. Finally, I read (binge read) Rebecca a few months ago. I am not going to squee all over the place about how much I loved this book. That’s for another day.

Long after finishing Rebecca, there was a line from the book which resonated deeply with me – virtue in insincerity. This has been a topic of constant debate between me and my friends that I thought I should write a blog about it.

“…If she doesn’t like you she’ll tell you so, to your face”

I found this hardly comforting, and wondered if there was some virtue in the quality of insincerity.

Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

Say, your friend ordered a brand new dress on sale and is pretty psyched about it. She asks you if you like it. You don’t . Well, what do you say? In such situations, does voicing your genuine opinion really matter? The next time she wears that dress, she will definitely know that there is one person in the room who thinks it is hideous. How about just saying ‘It’s nice’. You don’t have to go out of the way to adulate them. Just a simple white lie to make them happy. If not to make them happy, at least to avoid that awkward ‘Oh’. This is a lame example, but still it relates to the big picture – treading the thin line between frank and irritatingly frank. Consider this,

Person: “Hey, please don’t mistake me but your hair totally looks like soan papadi” *chuckles*

Me: Thank you so much for enlightening me about the state of my hair, in the most appalling way possible. By any chance, did you drop your brain-to-mouth filter ?

A common excuse for such levels of ‘honesty” is that, it is better to speak your mind than talking behind someone’s back. I beg to differ. Unless your opinion is really called for or helps in genuinely improving things, there is nothing wrong in a little insincerity .Of course, this could be misunderstood as an inability to accept criticism. Again, the thin line surfaces between constructive criticism and making offensive statements. My point is, insincerity does have its virtues sometimes. I am sure many will disagree (have disagreed in the past) but given a choice, I will always choose the satisfied look on someone’s face with a mere ‘Nice’.


P.S: The Soan Papadi conversation did happen. (I know!)



About vandysnape

Hi ! I'm Vandhana. Books. Blogging. Rickmaniac. Titanic. Time Travel. UFOs. Madras. Travel. History. Quirks. Shopaholic. Sinatra. Mozart. Beatles. Amelie. Me :)
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9 Responses to Virtue in the Quality of Insincerity

  1. nirupamaprv says:

    Oh!!! That’s awful! I agree that tiny white lies are better than the hurtful truth- unless the speaker is really amazing at couching the facts in delicate, kind, inoffensive terms.

  2. ganeshputtu says:

    If being polite cost us nothing….but leaves others happy…there is absolutely no choice in telling a white lie vs being frank…imho..i would do the same too…so i am with you on this one…
    ps.what happened to the soanpaapadiwali?

  3. Did your mother ever tell you you should be a writer?? Well, for once, she was right!! : )

    My dear Vandy!! This was excellent– one of your best. I’ve never read Rebecca, but I love that thought, that exchange. And your “Thanks, but no” meme made me roar with laughter!!

    FWIW: I agree with your sentiments entirely. And you said it beautifully: “Unless your opinion is really called for or helps in genuinely improving things, there is nothing wrong in a little insincerity.”
    Amen! Whenever I hear: “I believe in being totally honest–” I know I’m in the presence of a sadist!

    I also liked “treading the thin line between frank and irritatingly frank”– nice! : )

    I was, of course, moved to google soan papadi. Google said it’s spelled soan papdi, but I know they’re wrong and you’re right.

    And the next time I see someone with a hairdo that looks like a cube with little flakes on it, that’s what I’m gonna think to myself: soan papadi!! : )

    Great post, hope this finds you well and smiling!!

  4. Balu says:

    I always had confusions on choosing between being diplomatic, straight forward and rude :D.

  5. Praveena says:

    Nice write-up.I will buy all your books in future if you happen to become a writer 🙂

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