The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow: Cynicism Ain't All Bad, Is It?


I am one of those folks that has a pretty optimist outlook on life.  I would like to think that I am not pollyanna-esque in my expectations of people and institutions, but pragmatically hopeful about the future.  My faith compels me to live in gratitude for new life around me, sometimes even acknowledge the miraculous and unexplainable.  You see, because I say that I believe in the life, death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ - as crazy as that sounds for many of you - I am saying that I believe that even out of my own/our despair, there can arise hope; from hatred can come love and; yes, even from death, new life is possible.

But there are days when I want to claim my rightful place in the Generation X Cynicism Brigade and flush all hope down the proverbial social toilet.  After all, we have seen hopes crushed, ideas poo-poo'ed and movements of social change slapped in the back of the head more times that we care the acknowledge.  We have accepted the norms of corrupt politics, apathetic communities of faith, short-sighted electorate, poverty, pain and, even worse, our own inability to make even our own wildest dreams come move towards reality. 

Side note: I wonder if some of us justify our cynicism by sabotaging our own ministry and work just enough to keep us from realizing the change we yearn for. [Original Tweet]

I don't care what you call it: pragmatism, pessimism or cynicism you are a big ol' liar if you say we have no reason to doubt that good will come from most things that sold as hopeful.  We have reason to doubt.

But then again, I also value this generational "gift" of viewing the world with a slightly raised eye-brow and whispered, "Really?" to each and every movement of change. We have developed a key filter with which we determine where our fiscal resources are spent, our personal energies directed and our slivers of hope laid.  Being a tad bit cynical can be good, it allows us to filter a bit and find some harmony in our lives.  

But we must not let the gift of our cynicism get the best of us. 

While acknowledging the long-term presence of pain and brokenness in the world that will always be here, we must temper that reality by allowing ourselves to see changes in systems and communities that the cynic inside would have us overlook.   We must be able to see past the ongoing disappoints in the world around us and in ourselves and realize that even despite these things, there is always room for hope, love and new life.  Some of those places are in the movements of social understandings, changes in communities and even our own dreams becoming known and real.  We simply must allow ourselves to see these things around us; not as easy as being cynical, but just as important of a discipline.

So I don't know about you, but I am going to keep raising my doubtful eyebrow, rolling my eyes and yes, even letting out the occasional "whatever" escape from my mouth, but never will I let it own me or become the thing that ultimately feuls my life.

For that space in my life I will leave room for hope, love and new life.

[Taken with permission from Bruce Reyes-Chow's blog. Follow Bruce on Twitter @breyeschow]