the new cynics

All I ask of you, especially young people…is one thing. Please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism – it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.
– Conan O’Brien

As I look back upon my 20s (and yes, they are almost over), I would have to say that the past 9.5 years have been defined, in part, by the practice of critical thinking. Whereas my teens years were all about going with the flow in so many ways, as I went to college I began to be exposed to different ways of thinking and looking at the world. Nothing was taken at face value any longer; everything began to be questioned and looked at from different angles, and I truly believe that this was a good skill to develop. It allowed us (for I believe that I speak on behalf of many of my peers) to begin to wrap our minds around the grave injustices that ravage the world around us, to consider what it means to be the Church in that world, and quite simply to refuse to accept the status quo.

On one hand, this kind of thinking has led to some great work in the way of alleviating suffering and oppression, exciting new/old ways of approaching church and community, and has helped to many to look for and live by a different way of being human in the world, according to the teachings and mission of Jesus Christ. In short, a new hope that things do not have to be the way that they are way is springing up and taking over because of this refusal to go with the flow.

While this is happening, however, something less grand is bubbling beneath the surface and has, at times, become the more dominant sentiment.

cyn·i·cism An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others.

What I have found in my own experience is that the more I have engaged in the process of critical thinking, the more I have come to expect and accept the negative. What I mean by that is that it has become so easy to sit back and crap on that which I deem to be not up to whatever standard I have created for the world around me. Critical thinking has, at times, morphed into critical living whereby something is always wrong with anything and everything.

For example, I have experienced a very long period of time wherein I could not sit through a church service without coming out with a list of several negative points. Rather than coming to the house of God to worship and join together in community with fellow believers, I would sit there and stew over this theological point or how the worship was being led etc. And I don’t think I am alone. Look around, and you can see this propensity to point out the negative just about anywhere these days, particularly in the world of my generation of ‘Christians.’ And while it is good to question, I am coming to realize that I have been missing out on a lot lately. My first inclination has become to pick at things, and as a result, I have, in many ways, been guilty of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

I do believe that followers of Jesus are called to think differently about the world, to speak out against injustice and to be a Church that lives according to his Way. I believe that this involves thinking critically and calling into question traditional modes of … well, about everything. However, I also believe that we do a disservice to that mandate by focusing too much on that which is wrong with the world, often mainly among ourselves and with a view to demonstrating to others that we are the ones that really and truly ‘get it.’ I believe that followers of Jesus should be quicker to point out that which is good in the world, to seek out and illuminate the subtle glimpses of the kingdom that rise up among us, and to be united in our pursuit to show the world that this different Way is a movement defined more by positive action than negative banter.

Which brings me to Conan the prophet. Cynicism – constantly focusing on the negative – has gotten me nowhere, and will do the same for all of us. In truth, I have missed out on a lot because of my propensity to point out the negative. My desire is to be kinder, more loving, and quicker to embrace that which is good around me, and while I don’t want to turn a blind eye to the realities of the world by donning an Osteen-esque, all is right with the world perma-smile, I believe that the challenge of embracing and creating a better world is far more rewarding than constantly pointing out the negative and picking at each other.

Be kind. Work hard. Seek, embrace and create some good in this messed up world. Maybe, just maybe, we can mercifully come to see that we don’t have all the answers and that our way is not always best, opening the door to be blown away by the goodness of the Lord constantly at work around in much of what has previously been pooh poohed.

    • Catherine McLaren
    • March 5th, 2010

    I liked what you had to say …………………….

  1. The only thing that could make this post better would be if it built off of a quote from Conan O’Brien. Oh wait … hot dang what a great post!

    • Sara Beth Dacombe
    • March 5th, 2010

    I appreciated your honesty and sensitivity. It seems so true, and that perhaps everyone goes through a cynical period. Perhaps it follows one’s idealistic period. So how do you change the world without being idealistic or cynical? Maybe it starts with being a bit more calm, having a bit more peace, and looking for ways to spread that around.

    Anyway, I followed Lauren’s link she posted and I enjoyed the writing. Keep it up.

  2. @Mom and @Jon – Thanks for the encouraging words.

    @Sara – I like your thoughts on being more calm and having that peace in order to reconcile the pull between idealism and cynicism. Donald Miller talks about ‘sober thinking’ this in his latest book, and I think that’s a good way to look at it. Thanks for that comment.

  1. April 12th, 2010
  2. June 7th, 2010

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