St. Anthony was a very meek and humble man, but when he preached, his words touched many hearts. A man who maintains genuine integrity, lives and communicates with guileless sincerity, and has unfeigned humility is a man of great peace. St. Anthony was just such a man. Of all the virtues for which we should strive, these peace-bringing virtues are both the gentlest to own and the hardest to maintain. Our human nature often views knowledge and understanding as reason for rising "above" these virtues and determining, in our own mind, what others should hear us say. Such considerations are very unfortunate, for they cause us to lose our sincerity... and in so doing we lose peace of mind and doubt the sincerity of others.
How are these virtues lost? The causes begin externally, but reach critical level within ourselves. I will use spirituality as an example, for the loss of spiritual sincerity is the bane of saints. When we have come near to God and begun to spread Him to others, we become intimately involved with the greatest, deepest, most joyful and lovable mystery in the universe. When we hear the praise of others for this intimacy, we begin to think that it is we, and not the mystery, that have these qualities. We become confident and prideful in them, and indirectly destroy our own sincerity. For even if we have the best of intentions, as soon as we begin to think we are something more than the nothing loved by God that we are, we are deceiving ourselves and cannot help but begin to deceive others.
The loss of sincerity extends to many levels. Most often, the first reached is the loss of truth, which is rooted in the spiritual deception of our high consideration of our own worth. However, this level is not often recognized because of how quietly it takes place. The most noticeable is outward confidence in our own spirituality. When we cease to maintain meekness and earnestness, and rather begin to throw facts around in the name of God without any spiritual foundation. This is almost always directly linked with the consideration of the perspectives of others... as soon as we begin to lose the direct consideration of God, we begin to speak in words that we believe others want to hear. These of course lead to the very obvious faults of being preachy, condescending, hypocritical, proud, envious, and judging. This is why saints are most greatly pained when they are spoken of highly, and receive the greatest satisfaction in being humiliated.
It is obvious that sincerity is of very great value, so how can it be maintained? We must seek personal holiness and closeness to God before all else... in secret we must advance our own spirituality as far as possible and pray earnestly that God will help is to truly grow closer to Him. We must humbly admit our faults and attribute all good in us to God, and recognize how little we truly know, thanking God for showing us knowledge day by day and keeping our minds from emptying themselves in our own human stupidity. We must speak from our hearts and pray constantly that God keep our motives pure, as if the very fact that we are the mouth and action of His wisdom fills us with fear of our own unworthiness. We must view others' words and actions with generous consideration, and upon seeing their faults or doubting their sincerity, considering our own faults and sincerity more deeply. By thus protecting our sincerity and carefully keeping God first in our minds, we may maintain the great gifts of peace and trust which true sincerity affords.