It’s true. I have increasingly become more and more cynical and I hate it.
It’s because I am, at the same time, an idealist; this is an odd balance, I know.
To be honest I find it extremely frustrating, and I know I’m not the only one, thankfully. Recently, at my wedding, I was having a conversation with one of my groomsmen who had just graduated from grad school, essentially a seminary, with a degree in counseling. He said that he has increasingly become, like myself, a cynic, and also like me, hates it. It’s a very frustrating view to have on life, the world and everyone you know. And yet, neither he or I can seem to fight it.
It seems like a loss of innocence or naivete, but I wouldn’t call it that; I think it is more so the loss of ignorance and the frustrations that come when finite hopes become infinitely impossible to realize. I do still have hope, but I know that, in all likelihood, they will remain only hope and never become a reality.
It’s been a long process and a long time coming, honestly. I think it first came with politics, I had hope, much like everyone else has, at least sometime in their life, if only for a brief moment, that by having the right people in power we might get the right politics to put in place the right economic system and the right amount of federal power to really change America and the world. Of course that in itself is a pipe dream, but even still the “right” system, whatever that may be, will always have some drawback somewhere, and ultimately depends on every factor working out perfectly, be it a system favoring capitalism or socialism.
The second round came with theology. I have, for the longest time, enjoyed theology and even though it has let me down, I still enjoy the wrangling and wrestling with it. Theology also has not turned out as I have hoped; it frustrates me, because there really is no “right” answer, in so far as I know (or that anyone else could know, in so far as I know). I was under the assumption at one time, that there was a right theology and that it could explain everything and that if all Christians could just come into knowing this right theology we could all have a Coke and teach the world to sing… Sadly, however, I have come to see that this is not the case. Theology is conditional on knowledge and semantics. The different things, or more things, different people know will bring them to different conclusions; further, depending on how one wants to interpret the base of the theology, in this case the Scriptures, will bring them to wildly different conclusions even if they know the exact same things.
Ultimately, I have found that the primary, basic reason that I have developed such cynical attitudes are people. Everything depends on people, my idealistic ideas and ideologies would work if it weren’t for people. People screw everything up, capitalism or socialism would work if people weren’t greedy; theology would work if people weren’t prideful and self-centered/protectionist. People most often want to work toward themselves in either a psychological or physiological way
This is the sad thing about cynicism.
Because, unfortunately, it brings me ultimately, without any other factors, to one conclusion:
I hate people. People are stupid. You are stupid. I (probably most of all) am stupid. We are all stupid, and we screw up my perfect world and perfect ideas and my ideal. I am greedy, I am prideful and I very much care about my ideas and I rarely change my mind, unless its my idea. Because I definitely won’t change it because of your idea. (Of course because I know this about my own self means that I’m not nearly as bad you… see this is how cynicism works…).
To continue with my honesty, I don’t think I’d care about my cynicism and frustrations with people nearly as much if I weren’t going into a profession that required me to love and care for people, same goes for my groomsman. We’re both seeking out professions that we feel called to give of ourselves, almost wholly, to other people. Clearly there is a problem… and we both see it and know it. People frustrate us and the fact that the people frustrate us frustrates us.
However, just because I am a cynic and are frustrated by people and myself doesn’t mean I am a total pessimist. I do have hope, and I don’t think it starts anywhere else but within me. My biggest problem is myself and my cynicism is only fueled by ignorance of my own ignorance and pride. Meaning I’m too stupid to see that I’m a jerk and too prideful in justifying my own jerk tendencies to really care for the other person.
What I need is community. There were inklings of my cynicism before I came to seminary in Atlanta, but they were tempered by the community that I was in. In such a place I was never without frustrations, but I was always in position to give, love and serve, which seemed to allay and smooth over the frustrations. My problem has been, since moving, is having, at first, very little opportunity to give, because of various circumstances. That turned into a lack of desire to take hold of opportunities when they arose, thus I had more time to myself, to think and to be frustrated. What I hope to change now is how I handle such opportunities; I want to take them more and give more. I want to gain new love and passion that is very much like what I formerly experienced. I want the same old love and passion in a new place and time.