Cynicism

The unfortunate reality is that if someone is cussing you out, you know you’re getting their honest feelings. But if someone is complementing you, it is very possible that they are lying. This is horribly cynical. You might get to where you only believe and accept criticism.

Before you know it, you hardly trust anyone, anymore.

Especially when you realize you’re guilty of the same sort of behavior. You probably don’t mention your friend’s bad breath. You assure the host that the meal was excellent. You smile at your friend and tell her that her new hair cut is beautiful.

Maybe your friends will promise to do something–and then not follow through. They say they will be there for you, but when you get there, something else comes up and they’re nowhere to be found. And when it got hot and stuffy, you find yourself alone in the kitchen.

But you understand.

Maybe they just forgot.

And things happen.

Plans change.

And they had the best of intentions.

And…so you keep getting screwed and you’re just going to have to understand. Soon, you become worn out with understanding. And cynicism not only has taken root, it has blossomed, born fruit, and had babies.

And yet…

1 Corinthians 13 relates the following:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

To think unkindly, to imagine that others don’t love you as profoundly as you love them is a violation of the spirit and intent of 1 Corithians 13. But how can you accept this at a gut level and acknowledge it as truth, when your cynicism seems so overwhelmingly true as well?

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Others will disappoint. Are you so perfect? Then you must accept the lack of perfection in others and accept that the failings are not from a lack of love, nor are they from malicious intent. Instead, it is simply and purely the consequence of human frailty, of misunderstanding, and of inadvertent injury. You must forgive. You must train yourself not to remember the bad. You must choose to keep on loving, and accept that it is possible that you are as important in their eyes, as they are in yours. You must decide to let them be as good as you claim to be.

We learn things inductively: we see a lot of dogs, and so we come to understand the characteristics of dogs. But if you have one or two experiences with dogs that are bad, it is entirely possible for you to decide that all dogs are hateful, and so, whenever you see a dog, you just assume the worst, since you have experienced the worst a couple of times.

Alternatively, you can chose to overlook those incidents which encouraged you to think badly of dogs, and instead focus your attention on that which is inspiring and good. You can do the same thing with your friends and the people around you, the unwashed masses. You can become bitter and cynical. You can decide that no one really loves you or gives a damn.

But is that any way to live? Will you be happy? Is it productive? Will it make others happy? And can it possibly be right? Of course not. Reread the section of 1 Corinthians 13 above. If you actually love God and love your neighbor as yourself, such cynicism cannot stand. As obvious as the reasons for cynicism might appear, cynicism is a skewed and inaccurate view of reality. And all it will ever do is make you miserable. Why choose to be sad?

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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