by Pastor Brian Young
cyn·i·cism – An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others.
There lurks a trap tailor made for you and for me in this life. Its confining bars drain the life from our spirits, evaporate the joy from our hearts, and send well-wishers away wondering how on earth to reach us. It is the trap of cynicism. Cynicism is an overall attitude about life that expects the worst in all circumstances. It goes beyond a healthy discernment or a cautious realism which can well guide us through life. Cynicism is a prison for the soul because it confines us into a victim mentality.
Cynicism indoctrinates us into its prison culture of negativity and conspiracy. “I am the victim at the mercy of every evil around me.” Whereas a healthy caution and discernment would still allow us to reach out and seize opportunities to love and be loved, cynicism keeps us walled into its fortress of despair and inactivity. Within its doors, we can’t reach out to others because we are certain we’ll get burned. Under its oppression, we can’t forge new paths in life because we are sure they will spell doom.
Just recently, I found myself within the trap of cynicism. A new and unique opportunity crossed my path one afternoon to serve a stranger in need. I had a goal in mind that day, a mission to accomplish. Places to go, people to see. Then, out of the blue, a stranger asked me for some money. Now, like you, I have been burned by this type of thing before. All of those past experiences came flooding back to my mind. I found myself calloused. I begrudgingly gave the person a few dollars and went on my way.
But God tapped me on the shoulder.
I began to reflect with God about my heart attitude. My spirit grieved. I grieved – not over having learned life lessons that would urge caution and wisdom – but because I had allowed those past experiences to make me cynical. Cynicism shut the door to creative alternatives. In that brief encounter, gone from my attitude was any sense of opportunity or trust in God’s guidance in the moment. I had shut down instead of cautiously reached out. Why didn’t I take the time to ask more questions of this stranger? Why didn’t I listen to them, linger with them, and pray with them? I went back to look for them. But they were gone. I prayed for them. I prayed for myself.
As we grow through life’s lessons, we need to allow difficult experiences to shape us, to forge wisdom within us. But if we are not careful, what we take to be wisdom can actually be the invisible prison bars of cynicism, which stifles the very love so needed to change the world.
Whispering Pines Church
Coal Creek Canyon