The Mechanics of Cynicism

Sincerity is constantly under attack. We’re afraid to be sincere, and we’re quick to dismiss it in others. Sincerity is suspect. It resembles vapidity and it stinks of manipulation. The difference is determined by what lies beneath, but we don’t always know what lies beneath, and sincerity is too precious to call anything else by that name, so to be on the safe side we often assume vapidity and manipulation until proven otherwise. We dare not get our hopes up. We’re afraid of mistaking a knockoff for the genuine article. We don’t want to be taken in by some New Age charlatan. Love your neighbor, buy this vitamin elixir, Tap Water Deluxe.

Such suspicion is born of a perfectly reasonable caution. Lies seem to be the rule, not the exception, in our world. Lies can make us materially richer and can increase an individual’s odds of physical longevity. All of us have seen examples of this in our own lives as well as in the lives of others. Thus we proceed under the assumption that others may be lying to us at any time, lest we lose something, something like time, money, property, status, relationships, hope, or heart. Call it a survival strategy.

When suspicion becomes an operational policy, it becomes cynicism. At that point, all is lost. We miss out on the mysterious riches of such culturally forbidden fruits as unconditional love, unconditional forgiveness, and unconditional mercy. When a friend offers words of comfort in a trying time, cynicism is there to make sure we fail to receive the gift of healing being offered. It works the other way around, as well: When we freely give some balm, some lightening of someone’s burden, cynicism can sabotage our kindness so that it is not felt or experienced as an act of love but as a harbinger of violence to come.

And there you have paranoia. It gets worse from there.


The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

Source: Prayer Foundation


1 Corinthians 13:4-7
New International Version (NIV)

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Source: Bible Gateway


2 thoughts on “The Mechanics of Cynicism

  1. I think we often forget that Jesus was an Eastern Mystic. As such he often taught through paradox (die to live, the first will be last, etc.).

    The paradox of being innocent as doves and wise as serpents (Matt. 10:16) seems to apply here. Jesus is not calling us to be either wise or innocent, but to be both/and.

    At the beginning of the Gospel of John (1:14) we get a picture of Jesus living out the ideal of both/and as being “full of grace and truth.” He’s not simply forgiving or authoritarian, he’s both/and. The openness and love of grace is brought together with the stability and centeredness of truth.

    My hope is to get a little closer to living in the paradox, to be a both/and kind of person rather than an either/or person, and to constantly pursue gracious truth and truthful grace.

  2. I’ve been finding myself assuming the worst out of people a lot recently. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been “burned” after always assuming the best or if I’m just getting more cynical towards people in general. I don’t want to be that person. So, I spend a lot of time praying for heart. That is would stay soft even after being hurt and that I’d see people with God’s eyes.

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