Don’t Let Cynicism and Negativity Win

Don’t Let Cynicism and Negativity Win

Right now, it’s very easy to be cynical in our culture. The news does a masterful job of stoking fear and pointing out everything that is wrong with the world. To be more specific, here are some of the things we constantly hear: the evolving conflict in the Middle East might lead to World War III. It’s impossible to take out Hamas without killing thousands of innocent people in the process. The U.S. House of Representatives can’t get their act together to elect a speaker. The southern border is wide open and nobody wants to address the complicated topic of immigration. Inflation is out of control and crushing middle-class America. Crime is a growing problem in many major cities. Our nation continues to give billions of dollars away in foreign aid despite being trillions in debt ourselves. We’ve just experienced another mass shooting, this time in Maine. It’s a long list and everybody can point to something that makes them feel anxious and that the world is headed in the wrong direction. However, a mindset of cynicism and negativity accomplishes nothing. It never has. It never will.

Cynicism can be defined this way: “an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest.” Modern cynicism has been described as, “an attitude of distrust toward claimed ethical and social values and the rejection of the need to be socially involved.” This leads to a sense of pessimism that human beings are simply incapable of making the correct ethical choices, or that most choices human beings make are always in their own self-interest. Cynicism is what has led to a growing distrust in major institutions (government, higher education, healthcare, and religious institutions) and a rapid decline in social capital and involvement. Many chose to criticize and then withdraw. We can all become guilty of this mindset, but truth be told, it only makes matters worse. Cynicism doesn’t accomplish anything and rarely offers solutions.

In one of Jesus’ most famous teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, he says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden… let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven.”

The only answer to cynicism is to hold on to hope and offer solutions. Hope and faith go hand and hand. You cannot have one without the other. Although much of the cynicism in our culture is understandable, we should guard against it. Hope is a mindset that we choose and a way that we live our lives.

Victor Frankl, who survived the horrors of the Holocaust, famously said: “Everything can be taken away except one thing: your ability to choose how you are going to respond to your circumstances in life. That choice is always yours.” The Apostle Paul was very aware of this when he wrote his famous letter to the Philippians from prison: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Does this mean that life is always rainbows and sunshine? No, but we get to choose our mindset, our focus, and how we will respond.