Cynicism is not missing from the Bible texts. For example, Job’s response to his buddy Zophar smacks of cynicism.
“You people really know everything, don’t you?
And when you die, wisdom will die with you! NLT Job 12
Job throws down a “you people” to Zophar and his two compadres. I don’t think that Job really thought wisdom would die with the passing of his three friends. I would classify that as a cynical remark. What I struggle with is that cynicism is never listed (even in the apocryphal books) as a spiritual gift. My one chance to move to the head of the class! Denied.
Recently I spotted a T-Shirt that conveys a sad truth.
I’m not cynical. I’m just experienced.
I receive a pretty steady stream of correspondence from “experienced” Christians who are fighting cynicism. This recent email is typical.
I’m a cynic by nature. I recognize human failings (especially the stupidity in myself) and I am amazed by the concept of grace and mercy – the idea that the Almighty would humble Himself to reach out to faulty, fallen beings is an awesome one. However, I noticed that with each passing year, as I see more and more of those failings I am getting more hardened with each passing experience.
It was my prayer years ago that as even as I see the reality of what is around us, I will still do good anyway, still love people anyway, and still believe in them anyway. I’m still trying hard, but I find it hard to keep myself “tender”. (please excuse the churchianty jargon. I have a rabid dislike for religious jargon in everyday communications, but it seemed appropriate for this occasion)
How do you keep yourself from becoming hardened or from being overwhelmed by cynicism?
(Name withheld to protect his cynical identity)
First of all, it is okay to use churchianity jargon with me. I am bilingual – I speak Christian as a second language. So I know that being “tender” means keeping your attitude toward others loving and kind even when they behave like the south end of a north bound horse.
Writer P.J.O’Rourke once said that “”making fun of born-again Christians is like hunting dairy cows with a high powered rifle and scope.” And it can be just as easy to get angry at Christians who don’t seem to have read any of the things that Jesus said (conveniently in red letters) in the Bible.
So how do I keep myself from becoming hardened? I tried a cynics support group (Motto: Like I need YOUR support). That didn’t work. The truth is I don’t always keep myself from becoming hardened to people who are acting like Bad Christians. That is an ongoing process and I suspect I will be busy working on this till Jesus comes.
Here are a few things that I have learned so far in my journey. I am the wretch that the song is talking about.
When I finally put aside my pride long enough to do some honest self-examination I realized how far I was missing the mark and how amazing His grace is to accept me in my “as-is” condition. Realization of your spiritual weakness is not weakness. In the mystic dichotomy of God’s grace and justice acknowledging weakness is an act of incredible strength. I told a buddy this week that the day I finally admitted I was just an idiot saved by grace was the day I began to actually grow in Christ.I need to focus on Jesus.
I get my undergarments misaligned when somebody says or writes a negative thing about me. But I have learned (with varying degrees of success) to focus on Jesus. Imagine if you had poured every ounce of your strength for three years into a person. And then that friend, at the moment of truth, turns his back on you, denies that you are a friend, and runs away. Not one denial of your friendship. Three times. And that person you had given everything to cursed as he threw you under the bus. How would I respond to that kind of friend? It is possible I would need a seven second delay to edit my comments for family viewing. That is what Peter did to Jesus. But what did Jesus do? He forgave Peter and He restored him. I don’t have any idea what other people are going through.
There is a powerful song by the country group Sawyer Brown about how infrequently we stop to consider that other people might be enduring real trials. Here is a sample of the lyrics from the song “They Don’t Understand”.
Everybody’s busy with their own situation
Everybody’s lost in their own little world
Bottled up, hurried up trying to make a dream come true
They don’t understand
Everybody’s living like there ain’t no tomorrow
Maybe we should stop and take a little time
‘Cause you never really know what your neighbors going through
They don’t understand