Cynicism is a very unattractive dimension of modern life – but it’s not a new phenomena. It comes from a Greek word and is ‘an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest’. It is easy to understand how folk can become like this.
The history of humanity is littered with the wreckage of broken friendships, relationships, the numerous imperfections of public servants, the activities of self publicists, those seeking personal self advancement and making the most of others with scant regard for their welfare or happiness; men and women moving through life with the self-held asssumption that the world rotates on their personal axis, driven by petty jealousy, scoring cheap social and never admitting to the possibility of ever being ‘wrong’.
The Church produces just as many examples of this as any other institution and we ought not to be too surprised by that as it’s made up of people who are very far from perfect. And yet there are so many other examples of goodness, charity and kindness to be seen in so many people’s lives – even in those who may fit the description I have just given. Cynicism is destructive, eats away at the soul, embitters and leads to all sorts of subtle unkindness.
In the Gospel according to St Matthew we read of Jesus teaching his followers not to judge others and it also describes how he so often looked with compassion on those around him – the crowds, the sick, those in need of love and healing. This is really hard isn’t it, and requires an attitude of heart and mind. But the alternative is to discover ourselves on a spiral that diminishes our own happiness from the spiral that leads to our own happiness being diminished.
Jesus looked for the very best in people, in spite of their many faults. So must we if we are to be faithful to his teachings. How does God look at his world? With the same eyes and heart of compassion and love as Jesus did when he walked this earth.
A worthwhile discipline for all of us – think well of others