Distrusting. Disbelieving. Pessimistic. Sarcastic. Always perceiving the worst in people, things, and ideas, including oneself and one’s friends.
“Cynical” is what I’m getting at. It sounds singularly hateful on paper, but it lurks where we’d least expect it: in the most popular personalities, the prettiest girls, the most privileged elite, and all too often, in ourselves. It’s that thing that makes us unnecessarily question motives, distrust sincerity, believe the worst in people, or reject compliments (something I don’t consider humble but rude). It’s the weird satisfaction derived from exposing a flaw in someone. Cynics delight in seeing a person flustered, sheepish, or crestfallen.
All too often, we’re the cynical ones. We’re the first to spot when someone might be trying to get ahead of us. We know that so-and-so’s motives can’t be entirely good. We insist we’re not really beautiful or gifted, “you’re just saying that.” We make it our duty to point out what’s wrong with everything from the government to the sermon to the food we’re served.
We don’t all do this all the time. But if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a cynical personality, you know just how much it dampens the spirit.
Where does this tendency come from? I would venture to guess that it’s pride and ingratitude. Pride, because we like to think we’re right and everyone else is wrong. Ingratitude, because we emphasize how we’ve been denied and fail to recognize how staggeringly we’ve been blessed.
Isn’t it true that sometimes, in our self-absorbedness, we think that cynicism makes us more attractive? That if we can just show everyone else how advanced our tastes, opinions, and observations are, they’ll like us better? That if we can prove how wrong everyone else is, we’ll feel better about our own shortcomings?
Could the root of cynicism really be that unseemly? Yes, it could. It’s the dead opposite of a soul that sees beauty.
Thank heaven we don’t have to be that way. There is nothing compelling us to walk through life with a cynical spirit.
We don’t need to dwell on the shortcomings of others or file a complaint on God’s provisions. Even if there is a great deal wrong with the world, there is always a spark of hope worth celebrating. No matter how many flaws we see in ourselves, we should graciously accept and reflect on the observations of others, for they might see something to which we are blind. Imagine what happy lives we would lead if we focused on ways we have been blessed instead of ways we have been deprived. We would feel a lot less hassled and a lot more peaceful.
Do we have something to lose by being thankful? On the contrary!
It’s just a theory, but I think unharnessed thankfulness could quite possibly lead to unstoppable joy. Wouldn’t we all like some of that?
It’s there for the winning.