Hello – I’m currently a leader for a campus ministry … I’m scared of who I’ve become – a cynical person. I’m really not sure what the root cause of this is… I know I have a hard time trusting people, but more than that I doubt peoples’ intentions way too much and too quickly and it’s getting harder to see and love them through God’s perspective. Some brotherly advice please?
Hey my dear friend, thank you for being so honest.
I have to say though: Do you know who else struggles with mistrust and cynicism and loving people?
Pretty much everyone breathing.
The worst thing you can do is to feel bad about feeling bad. You are human, which on one hand does NOT give you permission to be crappy, but also gives you permission to feel your feelings.
So a few thoughts on cynicism:
1) Do not repress your negative feelings.
Any kind of suppression is completely unhealthy. Certainly we should keep a lid on expressing every insane ugly thought that passes through us, but we need to release the valve sometimes. Which leads us to —
2) Find a vent-friend to vent.
It’s not a good idea to talk-trap every bystander with your issues, but everyone needs a friend who can be a vault with lock and key. Someone who will know when to listen for long stretches of time, when to cut you off, when to egg you on, and when to shut it down. Someone who not only tolerates you, but loves your slobbery, flailing, messy, upside-down self at your very worst.
3) Emotions were made by God for a reason.
If nothing else than to point you to something better. Which leads us to —
4) Be angry for the right things.
Anger in itself is not wrong. That’s why Ephesians 4:26 has that curious phrasing, “Be angry, but do not sin.” God designed us with a righteous anger, because He made us in His image. God burns with justice, and so do we. But our sin causes us to use this anger for selfish reasons, hence “human anger does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).
If we can be angry for the right things, we will have less spiritual space to be angry for the wrong things. Controlling anger doesn’t happen by counting backwards from ten or beating yourself up. It happens when we are angry for the same things that God is angry about, like oppression, slavery, apathy, and injustice.
I preached a sermon on this called Prioritizing Your Outrage.
5) Go have fun.
When cynicism wins, it turns us into ironic sarcastic hipsters with no sense of humor. So get back your childhood smile. Do stupid non-productive stuff that makes you giggle. Get the gross hamburger, the pint of Blue Bell, and rent a dumb comedy. Go watch Brian Regan. And laugh until you fall over in tears.
6) Celebrate, forgive, pray.
If cynicism has set in too much and you’re now displacing it in all the wrong ways, then you might have a Hebrews 12:15 problem.
In that case, God call us to remember grace. I know this isn’t easy to do, especially when you’re seeing red and everyone seems to be purposefully pissing you off.
But if you can remember the same grace God has shown us from the beginning: you can celebrate others despite their screw-ups. Because God also celebrated you despite you. If you can look at the cross: you can forgive. If you see how Jesus prayed for his enemies: so can you. Not out of moral obligation, but because Jesus did all that we couldn’t do, and we can both rest in and be motivated by his grace.
This is a daily practice. But I think the more we can take our eyes off ourselves and others, and first see Jesus in his total glory, then it will be that much easier to love others. It will be that much easier to have hope and a renewed perspective. We won’t crush others with our cynical expectations, because we’ve stopped demanding too much from them. When we know that God operates by grace for us, we tend to flex grace for others too. No one can do this perfectly and I am still learning as well. But if we are to give grace, then our hearts must be broken by grace.
I pray you will believe this more and more, and that your heart will be torn and tenderized by His goodness.