Pitfalls of Cynicism

Cynicism: An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others.

A recurring theme in the New Testament is that of hope. We are to have hope in the provisions and promises of God, the return of Christ, a glorious future and especially the great salvation that is given to us. The fifth chapter of Romans reminds us that our hope will not be put to shame because the love of God is working through us to accomplish our hope.

Sadly, too many of God’s children live a life devoid of hope. While they give mental assent to the contents of my previous paragraph, their general outlook on life is characterized by cynicism. As I have contemplated this, I have identified what I believe to be a few pitfalls that cynicism presents, that Christians should avoid.

1.  It abandons hope.

As Christians we should live daily in the hope that I have already described. A person who has given up hope allows their faith to become an easy target. Romans 8 describes the strength of faith that a person who has hope can develop.

2.  It pulls our focus from God to man.

Peter began to sink after he took his eyes off Jesus. While he was looking at the storm around him, it occurred to him that this was bigger than him. Those whose hope rests in politicians, doctors, lawyers, parents, family, friends or self will certainly see their hope eventually turn to cynicism.

3.  It accentuates the negative.

While the concept of “positive thinking” may be a bit overblown at times, it is something that is vital to a Christian perspective on life. Paul reminds the Philippian believers to think on things that are lovely, pure, of good report, etc. It is hard to be cynical when one is contemplating the goodness of God.

4.  It leads one to be judgmental.

By its very definition, cynicism assumes the worst about people and circumstances. It causes us to overlook our own flaws and concentrate upon the mistakes (either actual or imagined) of others. It will drive us to pass judgment upon the motives of others, even though we cannot see our own hearts, let alone theirs.

This is something that should never take place in the life of a Christian. James raises the question, “Who art thou, that judges another?”

5.  Cynicism spreads.

Paul uses the analogy in Hebrews 12 that we should not allow a root of bitterness to spring up as it will cause many to become defiled. It is impossible for us to hold this negative perspective inside. A cynic will see himself as simply being “realistic”, better informed than others or simply caught up in the refrain of “same song, second verse.” Unfortunately, everyone around them will be exposed to the hopelessness that pours out of them.

Are we abandoning hope? Is our focus on man instead of God? Are we focusing on the negative and becoming judgmental of others motives? Is our cynicism spreading to those around us?

There is still hope. God’s grace is strong to deliver, not only from the power of sin, but also from the negativism of this world.

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.  I John 4:4


8 responses to “Pitfalls of Cynicism

  1. Good thoughts. Unfortunately, there is an excess of cynicism in our country, and especially among Christians. How can we expect to share hope when we are in want of it ourselves?

  2. Great post.

    I have heard that Americans are not very cynical at all in comparison to us British.

  3. Thanks Gordon for the good thoughts. Causes me to do some thinking.

  4. Great point, Cameron.

    Matthew, I suppose cynics are on both sides of the pond. Actually, I had always considered you British chaps to be a bit more optimistic. 😉

    Bro. Tim, I’m glad it blessed you.

  5. We are to busy looking at the circumstances rather than God who is greater than all of our circumstances. For ex., no matter what the politicans say about the economy, God said that the soul of the righeous would never famish.

  6. Preacher this is another excellent and timely admonition. I find this insight invaluable:

    “Those whose hope rests in politicians, doctors, lawyers, parents, family, friends or self will certainly see their hope eventually turn to cynicism.”

    I think if we are always ready to give an answer for the hope within us that we can avoid this pitfall. To be ready we must keep ourselves aware of God’s providence in Christ then it will be impossible to find solace in anything else.

  7. I think that people (Christians and not) often lead very difficult lives. We in the church often try to talk them out of the cynicism that difficulty and despair have led them to.

    Cynicism is something, like pain, than needs to adressed from the inside out.. it is an issue of the heart that the head often doesn’t understand.

    I find that I can only find hope in the person of Jesus.. fixing my the eyes of my heart on Him gives me hope. It is the message that hurting people so desperately need.

  8. Daddy and KC, (both of y’all have the same initials, how about that?) thanks for your comments and insights. They are much appreciated.

    KB, that’s a good point. I think we probably need to ask ourselves why the church is having such difficulty helping people overcome cynicism. Could it be that the church itself has lost view of the abilities of God and is itself entering into cynicism by focusing on personalities and programs instead of divine deliverance?

    You are perfectly on target when you say hope is in the person of Jesus. Faith in Him is the perfect antidote to cynicism and a lot of other ills as well.

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