Cynicism can be a defensive reaction to a tragic loss. It is evident in Job’s first speech after losing possessions, family, and health. He wants God to eradicate the night he was conceived so there would no trace of his life because life has no meaning in the shadow of such a terrible tragedy. Job fortunately progresses to the point that he again embraces life as he is challenged by his “friends.”
Cynicism often springs up in youth who believe their ideas and values are wasted on older leaders who will not listen and will not change. Cynicism may also arise in creative people whose work is disparaged by a closed system.
We are living in a time when most people of the United States are cynical about politics and political processes. I have friends who have given up voting because they believe politicians have no principles and serve only themselves. Although the war in Iraq has deepened cynicism about politics and especially international relationships, people have always been skeptical about governments — even though we readily acknowledge the necessity of order and leadership.
Cynicism causes us to withdraw into our shells like a turtle: we are protected, but we are not open to ideas and people in ways that nurture life. Cynicism gives up on people, institutions and movements. It is a slow form of intellectual and spiritual suicide. It is a sign of the times. Satan understands that cynicism causes people to cut themselves off from other people and even from God. Cynicism feeds the ego, giving people an unrealistic view of themselves. It encourages a pride that diminishes respect for other people and ideas that are not born within.
The church should be the last place where cynical attitudes prevail, but sadly church seems to foster those views. Congregations are cynical about other congregations. A church that is growing often thinks the church not growing must have an ineffective preacher, elders that are incompetent, or members unresponsive to the evangelistic call of the Gospel. The church not growing often concludes that a growing neighbor is pandering to popular tastes and not living up to the call of “sound doctrine.”
Understanding that “being on the outside looking in” promotes cynicism and revolution, church leaders should do everything possible to bring younger people into the circles of discussion and leadership. In many of the most successful churches in our fellowship, elders are conscientious to take younger members into their circles of discussion and fellowship. Max Dobson, a longtime friend and fellow leader at the Memorial Road church in Oklahoma City, has a weekly breakfast with a group of men from his Sunday Bible class. He opens the doors for their ideas and their suggestions. He encourages accountability and cultivation of leadership traits in the lives of men who will lead another generation in the Kingdom. Max is a realist about people and situations, but cynicism is never the quality he shows people. He sees the best in people.
Cynicism is a poison that pollutes and eventually kills the heart of people. As you seek to guard your hearts against all sins, I urge you to set your minds on accepting others with trust and openness that allow you to love people even if you do not like their ideas, their attitudes or their conduct. If cynicism writes them off, you cannot learn from them and you surely will not be able to touch or influence them.