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Cynicism – The Slide Begins…

Last week, I left you with a provocation… what happens? How do you go from being so positive to being so negative?

What I have come to discover on my own journey is that at least 3 things happened to my heart as it grew cynical:

1. I knew too much:

You would think that knowledge is a good thing, right? Wrong! Knowledge will often sadden you. In fact, there is a verse in the bible that says “the greater my wisdom, the greater my grief”. In some ways, ignorance is bliss. Had I known that my employer would end up being so disappointed in me after I invested my all, it would have been easy, even automatic to keep investing myself. I now begun to view people more suspiciously. Would they all treat me the same way? Would they simply point an accusing finger at me?

Chances are, you too have had the experience I am speaking to…once, twice, four, seven times or more. Trust becomes harder because you know too much. You’ve experienced the heartbreak, betrayals and backstabbing. You understand that people let you down. You’ve seen that some people just cannot be trusted. You know love hurts. You realize that people are fickle and selfish. The longer you live, the more you know. The more you know, the more you see life as it really is.

The more successful you become, the more pain you are likely to experience. And there is a desperate brokenness that comes from doing life with flawed people.

2. I projected the past into the future:

Having been burned once or seven times, you tell yourself that only fools get burned that many times. You start to guard your heart. You shelter your soul. You become skilled at seeing patterns and begin to do what cynics do by instinct: you project past failures onto new situations. You no longer see situations for what they could be. You see potential hurt. Past pain will become future hurt if you let it. So, don’t let it!

The Senior management of the company I spoke to earlier were not the only ones who questioned my motives. Relationships also imploded on me. These were the kind of friends you did life with: concerts, dinners, holidays – and they were incredible friends! But for some reason, within a span of time, these friends were not friends anymore. It hurt. Deeply. And to be honest, I am still a little confused as to how it all went down. Attempts to make things right didn’t work. I know I had a role in the painful situation, but it’s a bit mysterious and murky. And it led me to decide (for a season) to go down the road every cynic travels.

I’m very sure you can relate because something similar has happened to you. Eventually, the weariness makes you weary. Your guardedness and suspicion evolve into anger and bitterness.

3. I decided to stop trusting, Hoping and Believing:

After I lost friends, I said to myself, “I don’t need friends. Really. Friends are a bad idea. I’m fine on my own“. This was my pain speaking. And at this time, it made perfect sense. In fact, it was far safer than new friendships would involve.

You see my friends, the problem with generalizing – applying one particular situation to all situations – is the death of trust and hope. Belief is like a virus and it infects everything. You think you are protecting yourself from the future when in reality, your new stance infects your present. The people you care about most in your here and now suffer. That’s because, as a cynic, you project your new found suspicion on everyone and everything. Your current relationships stall or dial back a few notches. You then become numb to people you claim to love the most, even your spouse and kids.

Interestingly and perhaps most disturbingly, cynicism begins to affect your relationship with God. When you close your heart to people, you close your heart to God. Why does that surprise you? Hmmmmm?

You find yourself trusting less and doubting more. Even your prayer life becomes stunted. “What’s the point anyway“, you ask? You feel like you are praying for things that will not happen, so why bother?

My friends, it is a stifling progression from knowing too much, to projecting the past into the future to snuffing out trust, hope and belief. When this process occurs, you have the unmistakable ingredients for cynicism. And whether you are twenty-three or sixty-three, it’s a sad – and unnecessary – way to live. It like a war inside you fighting for your soul – and cynicism will win or lose.

Cynicism is not always a conscious decision, but it’s a decision nonetheless. Truth is, cynics never change the world. They just tell you why the world cannot change. If you’ve grown cynical, please understand that cynicism happens not because your heart is closed but because it was once open.

There is good news though, you don’t have to stay a cynic. There is a path back. It’s a path for those who are brave and those who long to hope again.

The question is, are you willing to embrace it?

Join us next week for the third and final part of this series on cynicism. Together lets and kick cynicism in the teeth.

If you missed last week’s newsletter you can find it here.