It’s time to share a trait that sometimes gets me into trouble. Sincerity.

Truth be told, I should replace “sometimes” with one of those phrases like “frequently has” or “sometimes with great consequence,” or “caused a huge misunderstanding.” Bear with me and read on. I am not somber about much in life.

Out of four kids, me being number two, I was probably the most serious growing up. I was prone to introspection, and highly analytical of what was going on around me. Except for the occasional instigation-of-nonsense that has been a part of me since toddler years, I tended toward the solemn. Teenage angst? I’m sure I was one of the inventors of that phrase. It took a long time for our parents to teach me, “Don’t take yourself too seriously.” The other three figured out much sooner that laughing at themselves was a good idea. 

The BFF who keeps me in line (me on left; Seester on right).
Two little kids who don’t like being serious! (me and Jackie)

Circumstances Change Our Sincerity

It often takes drastic circumstances for people to change. Over the years hard events have hit me, helping to lighten my mental load. I’ve had many moments of somberness in my life. My family started a sad roll of significant occurrences starting in 2004. Since the losses of our parents eight months apart, (Mom—lung cancer,  Dad—ALS), it’s difficult to take much seriously. Each passing of a person or a change in circumstances caused family-wide depression, melancholy, and commiseration. To not admit to those emotions would be to deny the impact those folks had on our world. It would be ignoring the holes left by their deaths.

We lost Mom while coping with dad’s decline. As a family, we worked hard against being gloomy. During one of the ten days we were losing Mom, I dug out the humorous DVDs we had on hand. I sat with Mom while listening to Dad and my siblings laugh at the ever ridiculous original Airplane movie. It was a way to manage the stress.

Serious or Sincerity

Trite phrases became a reality in our daily lives. Life is short. None of us get out alive. People hope to reach heaven, but no one looks forward to the final step required to get there.

Given the termination dates of life on this planet, I find it difficult to get serious about looking fashionable. We don’t maintain our home like Martha Stewart lives here, or where are we in regard to the Joneses. These outward symbols of stylishness and success mean little when we reach our death beds. What becomes of the highest importance is who we were to others while we lived. Did we share the best of ourselves with the world? What is the personal legacy we left behind?

If only I could give up my churlish approach to driving in Pittsburgh, maybe I’d stop being serious in my entirety. But longer than two miles—who’m I kidding?—one mile behind the wheel and all I can do is observe the folks who get behind theirs and check their brains into the trunks. Recently, it was a dad steering his mini van over the busy streets with a child strapped to his chest in one of those baby slings. Can you say airbag disaster waiting to happen?

All that said, I am sincere about nearly everything.

I am also irritatingly humorous—and sincerely use humor to attempt the brightening of someone’s day.

As teenagers, older sister Jackie got the brunt of this exasperating behavior. It usually happened when we were clearing the supper dishes. She washed, instigator-I dried. I still wonder why she didn’t hit me with one of Mom’s heavy cast iron Club skillets. My antics began with me pushing at Jackie to make her mad (easy to do to this otherwise calm person). Who knows what I said? This is the 1970s, long before teens recorded everything they did. Thank goodness. Once Jackie was raging at me, I’d start trying to make her laugh. With my entire heart, I wanted Jackie to chuckle. Even if it meant taking a swipe with a wet washcloth in a feeble attempt to shut me up.

Nice brat, eh?

Again and again, I’ve stated, I’m not sure why Jackie let me live! I’m simply thankful the decades turned us into best friends.

Outward Appearances Come From the Internal 

A coworker once said she wanted to be happy like she saw me on a daily basis. The statement saddened me. This woman had a sense of humor that could bring me to instant laughter. Yet she worried about and took everything—and I do mean everything—seriously. It was tedious and exhausting and hard not to ponder how difficult life must be to be her. Reaching for sincerity, I tried referring her to the simplest of bible versus about worry:

Luke 12:25 – “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Nothing worked, she continued to wear herself out with concern for the things that rarely came to be.

Really, though, why be serious about what is beyond our control or influence? A thing is what it is. Dive in, get on with it, and come out the other side—with a smile on your face. Wear sincerity like a shield.

Those Griffiths…

Humor abounded in abundance growing up, with levity being the default Griffith trait. We were raised with the phrase, “Happy as a pig in mud.” Grandpa had pigs on the farm—long gone before we grandkids came along. We used to play in the now fully wooded “pig lot.” He used that phrase a lot and re-explained to us multiple times. 

Today, try saying to yourself any number of sentences that begin with “I’m happy….” By day’s end, you’ll sincerely be happy about not being serious for the hours you’ve spent interacting with the world.

a 1974 American family portrait
1974 our family with Dad’s parents

Learning the Difference Between Being Cheery or Acting the Idiot

There is a good lesson to be learned in understanding the difference between being sincere or serious.

I take my friendships seriously. Especially if they involve people who make me roar with laughter and get my jokes. Even the warped puns that pop out unchecked. This laughing at quips and inside jokes keeps Alex and I on the right marital track. He gets my humor, knowing I’m cracking wise no matter the tone of my voice or expression on my face.

I’d tell you I love my family seriously, but when you meet them, you’d see how impossible serious would be. They’re a strange bunch, comprised of individuals who like nothing more than bursting into hearty chortling over the smallest thing.

So There Ya Go—Differences Between Sincerity and Seriousness

I sincerely believe that I’m being serious from time to time, but then reality slaps me in the face with a sobering event and I realize I sincerely believe that I’m being serious from time to time. Then reality slaps me in the face with a sobering event. I realize how marvelous it is to be alive. What a great life I’m having and gosh, there doesn’t seem to be anything to be serious about.