Are you cynical?
This blog entry will not make a difference in your life. It's a waste of your time. Why click? At the very least you'll skim, utter an obligatory "mmmmm" and then move along to checking your Facebook status. You've got more important things to do than to allow one blog entry of billions to stop you in your tracks, rock your world, and provoke deep, genuine attitude change. Because you live your life absorbed in your smartphone, what you read makes absolutely no difference in the rest of your day. It's skimmed, read, and then relegated to the inconsequential because You. Are. Shallow. You're cynical. ...And so am I for thinking these things.
In his book A Praying Life, Paul Miller (reviewed here) has an excellent section about cyncism, saying that our culture loves to be detached, critical observers of anything of significance.
One dictionary defines cynicism like this: an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others. Sound familiar? Hit close to home?
I want to challenge you today - this day - to sit down for 10 minutes and ask yourself why you have become so cynical. Close your browser windows. Turn off the TV or music. Get quiet and get real. Our culture is suffocating under a tsunami of cynicism, and you are drowning in it. You just don't know it. You desperately need some quiet time to assess just how deeply your hopes and heart have been wounded.
Here are a few things that lead to cynicism:
Disappointment with others
Consistent frustration with systems and organizations
Inability to influence
Lack of control
Seemingly unjustified hardships, sufferings or tragedies
Harlem Shake videos
I can speak to cynicism because I am a recovering cynic. Back in 2005, I wrote a blog entry called A Sheep's Tale which documented my descent into cynicism and contained these words:
God had allowed life to happen to me. The beginnings of cynicism pitched a pup tent on the outskirts of my consciousness and planned a longer camping trip later.
In his bookA Long Obedience in the Same Direction(synopsis here) Eugene Peterson said:
The only cure for cynicism is to bring it out behind the scenes. It is a parasite on faith. The reason that many of us don’t ardently believe in the gospel is that we have never given it a rigorous testing, thrown our hard questions at it, faced it with our most prickly doubts.
How do you shut down cynicism? It sounds trite, but try trust. If cynicism is "an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity," then you must change your attitude. Your attitude changes only when your mind does. So changing your attitude is as simple/difficult as changing your mind. We change our mind by changing what we think about. Whatever you dwell upon is what you become. One possible translation of Proverbs 23.7 is "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he."
You just must trust. Trust or bust. You must refuse to remain in the sin of cynicism because it short circuits faith. When you are distrusting, negative and skeptical, it erodes the landscape of your heart and the simple beauty of "casting all your cares upon Him for He cares for you." (1 Peter 5.7)
Another warning: cynicism loves company. You will be tempted to defend your cynicism by excuses like:
You don't know what he did to me.
You don't understand.
They have hurt me so deeply, I can't forgive.
I will never trust ______ again.
As you do so, you'll gather around you those who are willing to allow you to nurture your cynicism. It's because they are also trapped in this vicious, soul-destroying mindset. Look around you. If your "friends" and social circle is negative, complaining, condemning and haughty, you are definitely in the vise grip of cynicism. You've lost friends because, well, you're no fun to be around. Cynicism destroys relationships.
When you think that your opinion on whatever is what is reality, when you think that the content that comes from you and your circle of friends is better than the content that comes from other sources, you are cynical. Cynicism divides. It is a sin that makes schism.
A final warning: Don't discount the power of this entry to lead to lasting change. Don't close this page without reflection. Don't click too quick. Cynicism would have you discount what you've read and refuse to apply it and change. Don't allow it to rob you of any more life. It's time to reengage with relationships. To forgive. To renew. To allow the warm heat of God's love to melt your heart again.