Monday, October 10, 2011

Cynicism's Consequence

Are there more bad things happening today than there used to be? Is there more to be concerned about? Is there more now to worry about? Or is part of the problem that we have more access to it all via the media? It's hard to tell. I know that these questions were being discussed ten, twenty, thirty and forty years ago. Everywhere we look in the newspapers and on the TV and now on the Internet, we read stories of crises and injustice and abuse and violence.

The net effect of all these negative stories is an increasing weight on the shoulders of our souls. After a while this weight can become crushing, and we drift from being idealistic about the future into a smothering fog of apathy or stained by a corrosive cynicism. Both mindsets are a paradigm shift from the youthful zeal we once waved like standard-bearers marching into a future made better by our confidence and energy.

What happened?

Cynicism has been defined as "an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others."* The comic strip Dilbert capitalizes on this attitude in a workplace environment. Gossip rags fill their coffers by unearthing the dark side of the celebrity circuit. Washington pundits shine a light into the corners of peoples' hidden agendas, liaisons, mixed motives... or by suggestion the implication of such.

Crime, craziness, crackheads, creepy stalkers... betrayals by those in authority... the uncovering of hidden agendas... These things are not what make us cynical. Cynicism happens when we allow those external events to come inside us. We have no control over all the stuff that is happening out there, but we do have control over our response to it. If we allow ourselves to be poisoned, it is our own fault.

Jesus once talked to a woman about an inner well filled from within by streams of living water. Too often we let the media pollute us with streams of contaminated water.

I was recently watching a Western film where the wagon train had come across a pool of water that carried the sign "Bad water." As thirsty as they were, they would not let their horses get refreshed there and they had to move on. We need to be vigilant about the water we're drinking from. There's poison all around.

Resist the temptation to give up or give in. Let's each do our part, as much as within our power, to make this world a better place.

*The Free Dictionary by Farlex

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