A cynic is someone who believes that all people are motivated by self-interest. H. L. Menken said, “A cynic is a man who when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.” Maybe you’ve become a cynic. Maybe you’ve had a series of failed relationships and you say to yourself, “I’m so done with men (or women)” Or maybe the years have raised up cynicism about your job. You buy lottery tickets hoping you can win big and leave your workplace behind. Maybe its government or even the church. Cynicism is attracting quite a crowd this days because it’s an incredibly safe place to live. Within the protective cocoon of cynicism you can completely disengage. You don’t have to care anymore.
Nobody sets out to be cynical. It’s not something on anyone’s life plan. It happens gradually. You have a long series of disappointments with others and eventually come to that moment when you just don’t care anymore.
Most cynics got that way because they cared so much about people and life. Most cynics are former optimists. They’ve been hurt and they use their cynicism to protect that little spark of life they have left.
Cynicism is rooted in knowledge. People become cynical because they
know too much. Many people were much happier as children because they did not know so much about life. King Solomon said, “In much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” (Ecclesiastes 1:18) Armed with such wisdom, the cynic projects past failures onto future situations. “I know where this is going,” she tells herself. She lets the hurt of the past pronounce a death sentence upon her future.
The bad part about cynicism is that when you close your heart to people, you close your heart to God. Celebrated author and mega-church pastor Josh Harris recently announced he was no longer a Christian. It’s not a coincidence that in the very same tweet he announced he was leaving his wife. Cynicism does that. It sneaks up on you and suddenly you find yourself in a place where you’ve just stopped believing, hoping and trusting--anyone.
Life does not force people to be cynical. We slide into it slowly but it is a choice we make. In a hundred little ways we choose to move into it and we choose to continue in it once we’ve arrived.
Cynicism melts away under the relentless hope of the Gospel. It is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that confounds cynicism. Paul prayed “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation …that you may know what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…” (Ephesians 1:17-19) Cynics don’t grow because they know everything already. H.L. Mencken said, “The cynics are right nine times out of ten.” Consider living in the 10%. The cynics all said the Cross was the end. It usually is. The cynics all said Jesus was a failure. The cynics all said Peter or any of the other disciples wouldn’t amount to anything. Christian faith does not live among cynics.
Your first step to kick cynicism in the teeth is to believe in Jesus Christ. Believe that he is at work in you. He is at work in this world. There is bright hope for tomorrow. There is every reason to start caring again. Put your heart back in your hand. Daily live in the power of the gospel. Stay curious and never allow yourself to think you know everything. Things can never be as bad as you think they are. Jesus is not in the tomb and all the cynics in the world can’t put him back in! He’s alive and still performing miracles, working wonders and giving hope. Believe again. Hope again. Trust again.