The pre-eminent human quality that defines the calibre of a person is sincerity. Being sincere, authentic, and truthful is the foundation of a person’s integrity. If you are not sincere you are always pretending and the effort to pretend takes its toll on your mental health, and on your relationships. There is little of substance in what you say, as you don’t really believe it. Most of us feel we have to wear a mask, and put on an act, maybe not all the time, but with some people, or at work. It can be liberating to realise that you don’t have to do this, socially or professionally. You can be yourself. I remember well how I stopped pretending at the school gates when picking up my child many years ago, and how liberating it was to speak in my normal voice instead of putting on a clipped upper-class English way of talking. I was trying to fit in, yet I never felt like myself. The truth is we are often afraid to be ourselves, but you may find, as I did, that being yourself helps you to believe in yourself and your value.


The second quality I want to talk about is patience. The Persian poet Rumi called patience ‘the key to joy’, because without patience we are always dissatisfied. Nothing is ever done quickly enough. Other people are too slow, too stupid, too irritating. I learned about patience through living in Portugal. Go to any busy post office in Portugal and wait your turn to be served. If it is a post office without a number system, people wait in a queue, and sometimes for a long time if there is only one person at the counter. When I first came here twenty years ago, I was amazed at how patient everyone was. No complaining, just waiting patiently. I think it's because people are used to it. Because they are used to it, they don’t resist, and they have the humility to accept that you are just going to have to wait like everyone else. I have learned to do the same! I think a lot of impatience is connected to self-importance. If you are humble, it’s easier to be patient. And if you live in Portugal long enough you will have to learn it, or be constantly frustrated and irritated.

There is another kind of patience. Not connected with time, but connected with being tolerant with other people. Being patient with people who annoy you like the boring dinner guest, the querulous relative, or the demanding child. The funny thing is if you accept people as they are, and truly accept them with patience, they often become less annoying. Because they are used to rejection, not acceptance. They are used to people trying to get away from them. If you are patient with them, it opens up a doorway for them, to a different way of being. You provide that doorway through your patience.


The last quality I want to talk about is courage. As I have said, it can take courage to be yourself, to be sincere. But until you do, you do not really know who you are. So having the courage to be authentic and show what you really feel is an important part of becoming integrated as a human being.

It takes courage to be in touch with your feelings and show them, otherwise any real intimacy eludes you. It takes courage to be honest in a relationship and to bring up sensitive topics or have difficult discussions. People often fear that the friendship or relationship will fall apart if they broach difficult issues, but they are still there underneath even if you don’t bring them up, so keeping a lid on them is preventing the connection having any real depth.

Credits: Unsplash; Author: tyler-milligan;

In can also take courage to take a new step, to start in a new direction. Moving to a new country can feel daunting, this can also take courage. Learning a new language, and having the courage to speak it and make mistakes, is also something people often struggle with.


I have learned that when fear rises up in you, you can go beyond it, by having faith in something else. It’s a physical thing, a sense of having a light within that is there for you when the rest of you is in the dark. I suppose you could say it’s getting in touch with the strength of your inner self, your spirit. Most people are afraid of something- be it heights, airplanes, snakes, spiders, the dark etc. But there is very little advice about how to connect with the strength of your spirit when you feel afraid. I do not think people are born brave. I think they learn to trust something within them that is braver than their outer self.

Sincerity, patience and courage are qualities we can all learn. And we can develop them not just to be a ‘better’ person (whatever that means), but because developing these qualities will give us a more satisfying and deeper appreciation of life, and a more integrated sense of self.

Caroline McCutcheon is a writer and healer who lives in the Alto Alentejo. Her new book ‘Evolving with Spirit’ is available from, and from her website:


Caroline McCutcheon is a writer, healer and medium who lived for fifteen years in a small village in the Algarve.  Four years ago she moved with her husband to the Alto-Alentejo. To read more about her, and her work go to:

Caroline McCutcheon