“Since the Fall, evil feels omnipresent, making cynicism an easy sell. Because cynicism sees what is ‘really going on,’ it feels real, authentic. That gives cynicism an elite status since authenticity is one of the last remaining public virtues in our culture…. ‘So cynicism takes root and ‘feels’ more real to me than the truth.'”
– Paul E. Miller
19 thoughts on “Thoughts on a Quote: Cynicism”
I think he has a valid point, but the key word here is “feels”…the truth is not a feeling…the truth is a person: Jesus. The life lived in relationship with the truth, with Jesus is not the life of a cynic or a life marked with cynicism, but a life marked with truth, love, mercy, compassion and grace.
There is a way that seemeth right to a man…..
How can Mr. Miller see into the hearts of all mankind and all who profess to believers in Jesus Christ? I am saddened by that comment especially coming from Mr. Miller. If we lose hope in mankind (and what Mr. Miller states is a truth) thinking that mankind has reached this dismal point of no return…that everyone is out for themselves…that no one is authentic… that no one has any integrity…that no one can be trusted…that there is no hope for the human race then..there is no Christ..there is no God and it is all has been a lie from the very beginning. I feel sorry for him. Think about it. He is taking the power away from God in a sense.There is a God and there is good happening everywhere on this planet that is being orchestrated by God. I do not feel the omnipresence of evil..I cast the evils back into the desert where it belongs. When I look around I feel Christ reigning over the Earth and it makes it easier to overlook all the bad these days! I feel revival brewing…I feel the Holy Spirit working…I feel God preparing the world for the 2nd coming! I hope God sends revival to Mr. Miller’s heart so he can reopen his eyes and see God’s glory abounding everywhere..just as I see it and it is suppose to be seen!
You are right on…..so intelligent.
No ‘feeling’ can out weigh hte truth. When you are walking in the light and seeking the Lord, thru the holy spirit you are able to discern the difference between a feeling an what is real truth. Make no excuses for the works sand firm to the word of God no matter what
What is really real
and authentic is that which is eternal.
This physical world will pass away, but the things of God are
everlasting. Of course evil does exist,
and we can see it throughout our days, but that isn’t what God wants us to
focus on, and it isn’t eternal.
8 Finally, brethren,
whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are
just , whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever
things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,
think on these things. (KJV)
And, I really haven’t forgotten about the rest of my dissertation, but the semester is about done, and I’m buried. Blessings Friend!!
You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. ~~Jesus
My first thought is… no. To a believer the truth should always feel more real. Then I realize that the important word in that last sentence is “should”. If I’m really honest with myself, my feelings about the reality of the Gospel change like the tides. You can tell that by looking at the way I live. The beauty of it is that how I feel about the Gospel isn’t relevant. Grace covers my doubt, my cynicism and the tides of my feelings.
Walking with God, no one should have to feel this way.
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. Rom 15:13
I relate to Mr. Miller and must “put off” my cynicism every day. I don’t think it’s driven by the fruit of the Spirit at all, it’s unmet expectations I’ve put on others and it’s pride. I want my way, you see, and I will sulk in my cynicism if I don’t get it, until I apply Rom 12 :1,2.
Cynicism is Satan’s way of keeping us from finding peace in Christ. When we call cynicism “realism” (they are not synonymous), we fall into the enemy’s trap of giving up hope. saying that this is somehow the authentic view is just an excuse to doubt God’s power and continue to worry . The fact that many “realists” are so cynical is a constant reminder to me to share the grace, hope, and peace that comes with a true relationship with Jesus.
I have just read this comment and would like to address it’s premise and conclusion. “Since the Fall, evil feels omnipresent, making cynicism an easy sell. Because cynicism sees what is ‘really going on,’ it feels real, authentic. That gives cynicism an elite status since authenticity is one of the last remaining public virtues in our culture…. ’So cynicism takes root and ‘feels’ more real to me than the truth.’”
The ‘Fall’ predates the entirety of human history with the exception of only 2 people; Adam and Eve. It is God alone who is omnipresent, and feelings often have nothing to do with reality. Cynicism in itself is a state of mind, a perception or outlook, and is therefore only a reality when adopted, utilised and maintained by an individual. The greatest gift afforded to humanity, apart from the offer of salvation through Christ alone, is free-will. This is extended to all, although many would attempt to diminish one’s free-will through various means.
The comment that cynisism sees what is “really going on’ is a claim made and based upon individual perspective; it is not a holistic, or general truth, rather, it is a negativity bordering upon the assignment of interpreting all events from a perspective of expected defeat.
This perspective is like a man standing on a deck, overlooking a beautiful scene and wondering not how beautiful the world is, but thinking instead “I wonder when I will fall from this cliff”.
Virtues also, are qualities of good, not of badness. There is no ‘elite staus’ which can be assigned to individual perspective, unless it is qualified in some way, and assessed by peers of some educated perspective. The comment is merely unprofessional negativity, and is written for undisclosed reasons.
It is concerningt to read such a sad comment, written with apparent hopelessness, fear of the future, and sense of expected failure attached.
The conclusion is both remarkable, and indicative of the answer to a new hope. The ‘truth’ is that God loves you and has a future and a hope for you. The writer has not mentioned Him at all. I pray that you will turn your cares Paul to the One who cares for you, and that He will lift you up, and out of your pessimism, into the bright and blessed happiness He promises all who put their trust in Him.
Bible principles can battle our cynicism, and the Holy Spirit brought several to mind as I read this. It’s a matter of balance and focus. When we let His thoughts become our thoughts, our inner cynic is kept in check. For example, when I become too idealistic and hence disappointed, I remember we are to “Be wise as serpents, harmless as doves.” Then I remember how Love “hopes all things, endures all things”. I can keep things in balance…I can CHOOSE to believe the best, even when I know the opposite may be true. And of course, my disillusion is defeated when I realize…I’ve read the back of the Book…and we win!
Todd, I’d be interested to know why you posted this one — what’s going on for you right now.
I don’t buy the connection to authenticity as a last remaining virtue, or to the Fall, for that matter. Cynicism — like all negative lenses — is psychologically easier than hopefulness. Call that a result of the Fall if you must, though I’m not sure all pride is sin. Where it gets dangerous is two places: when it is socially extolled as “cleverness,” and when it (or any form of hubris/defeatism) takes over.
It’s been said a cynic is a failed romantic. There’s something in that, because both romanticism and cynicism are about “me.”
Love and hope sent your way.
Cynicism comes about for a lot of
reasons, but I notice today that a lot of cynicism has come about from severe
loss and people being tired and hopeless. Contrary to a prior statement,
cynicism is not “easier” than hope. It drains a person to feel so embittered
that it has become a part of who you are and so distorts your vision that you
see what is not true, as true. As Christians, we walk in cynicism almost as
much as the world, but we don’t see it. I have dealt with many losses in the
last several years, great losses, and cynicism came at me like a storm. Unfortunately,
the church was little help to me and had some very unreal expectations of me,
so it did not help. I am still human beyond all of it. I want to be super
spiritual, but when the heart breaks, it must grieve. We need to accept each
other in all our phases of life, just as we are: children. Children of God, but
still, only children, in process, each on our own journey. Cynicism can almost be like a salve
to a hurting soul, so it may take the form of a truth, maybe a comfort against
being disappointed or hurt again. If we are to combat it, we need to recognize
it and understand where it comes from: cynicism is to loss as hope is to
victory/gain. So, if we sense or observe cynicism, we need to apply love and
patience, restore that person so that their perspective is one of true hope
again instead of disregarding them for their weakness. I am not doubting Jesus
or His ability to heal, what I am saying is sometimes the weight of the loss
overwhelms and we need to be lifted back up to Him so He can heal. Love covers
a multitude of sins, even cynicism.
Before Eve could wipe the juice from her lips, cynicism had its effect in her heart. Previously her eyes were focused on the goodness of God, but now she has caught a glimpse of evil that distracts her and causes her to doubt. Her reality now includes pain and suffering, disappointment, betrayal–“gifts” from a sadistic enemy rather than good gifts from a loving God. Her heart is divided; she becomes guarded and defensive, cynical. She hides behind a fig leaf. Today, we hide behind a fig leaf that covers our faces. We learn quickly as children from cynical adults and from our own wounds that we have to protect ourselves from pain by hiding our real selves that might not be good enough or perhaps too much. It’s easier to hide than to risk exposing our heart and becoming vulnerable to love.
This IS the reality of our culture, but it isn’t the reality of God’s kingdom. We live in tension between the two for now. We have to acknowledge that everything is not okay right now (that’s not the same as being cynical), and ask God to help us see past the surrounding darkness and evil to fully trust in His goodness.
To me, it seems the more we protest and deny being cynical and broken, the more inauthentic we become. To pursue intimacy with God and others, we must lose the fig leaf and come out of hiding. For some, the fig leaf is religious behavior and rhetoric. I think Paul Miller accurately describes the mindset of our culture, not the way God intended for us to live.
cynicism is a way of looking at the world from an elevated sense of self, where i am above everyone else and everyone below must certainly learn from my obviously exalted creed. It is a static part of the problem, yet justified by the pride of knowing that at least i am not as bad as my neighbor ” oh well, that’s just the way it is….”
I too would like to know a little more of the context of this quote so as to better respond to it, and so that we, as commenters, can avoid some of the vices that actually characterize a cynical perspective. I guess I’d like to hope that these words were a statement of a problem that Mr. Miller saw with our society, and that he was going on to address the solution to that problem (the didactic feel of his explanation, and the true-sounding-ness of it kind of give it that vibe for me). However, I acknowledge the ease that we as Christians experience when we slip into the, what I might call cynical, view that would make this statement wholly negative. Thank God he has a plan to save us from our bent towards negativity, even when we don’t realize it’s effecting us!
Actually, I find the part about authenticity being one of the last public virtues somewhat fascinating. I’m not sure I completely agree with that, but supposing it’s true, think of what our society would be like if, on the whole, authenticity were not held in as high a regard. Or, supposing the statement incorrect, what would our nation be like if we really faced up to the facts more often?
Also, now that I think about it, when he says “our culture,” do you know if he means Western culture, or American culture, as a whole, or is it Christian culture? Just because it could be either, with different implications for each. Okay, time to submit before I come up with more questions 🙂
The danger in commenting here is that I don’t have the full context for the quote, so kind-of-like when we take a verse from the Bible w/out the context we can make many meanings and scenarios, but just as to what kind of thoughts are spurred by a single quote I offer the following:
Does cynicism “see what is ‘really going on’,” and if it does, then does faith fail to see it?
Do people look to faith blindly, demanding no substance or evidence of truth, clinging to faith as a magical elixir that we swallow to make the world somehow conform to all we hope and dream?
How do we discern truth: because we heard it in church…because our parents said so…because we watched a movie that was supposedly based on the Bible? If someone challenges the truth of what we believe do we accept the challenge with open-mindedness or get emotionally defensive because we do not have the substance to defend our beliefs, or the confidence that just because one small thing we have believed was not accurate it does not cause the whole of our faith to be false?
For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls have some differences than the manuscripts from which our modern translations were taken. The verse about women being silent in the church is not there. Some lesser-known manuscripts in-between have it as a footnote. So the question is, did Paul write these words, or did some scribe/Pharisee tweak it to superimpose the prevailing value of his own culture/generation and sneak it in to ride on the authority of Paul so it would not be questioned? The cynic and the believer do not have to be divided if the goal is truth. I used to believe this was written by Paul, now the evidence leads me to believe it was not, and my faith is not shaken or challenged to make that adjustment.
Why does cynicism feel more real? I thought about this a while. Sometimes cynicism takes root when despite doing the right thing, you suffer the consequences of the evil actions of others, and no matter how much you try to change things and make it better, you’re stuck in a difficult situation. Sure, your reward will be in Heaven someday, but what about the here and now? We may try to walk through a tough time with a measure of grace and hope, but sometimes that road is long (years) and harder with the passing of that time. There are a lot of “religious” people spouting platitudes about the situations of others when they themselves have not tasted the same trials. Not to say we have not all had our share of hard knocks, but seriously, when someone who is well-off financially, married her high-school sweetheart, doesn’t have to work outside the home, and complains about her teenagers getting into trouble, tries to tell someone who is poor, homeless, molested, raped, abused, divorced, or lost a child that it is nothing in this world to suffer, cynicism is, well, going to happen.
A friend of mine who is a much more eloquent writer than I just wrote a piece that I think is perfect for this subject. Here is an excerpt:
“Doubt…I guess that’s what it all comes down to in the end. I’m a pastor, after all. People expect me to have the answers, to be unflaggingly positive and optimistic, to be strong. But sometimes I look around and say “Really, God? Seriously?”
And then I feel guilty. I feel like a hypocrite. I berate myself for my lack of faith. I paste on a happy face, suck it up, and charge back into the fray, even though I still ache inside and hope desperately that no one notices.
But the guilt stays with me…Could it really be true that doubt is not the same as unbelief? Is it really possible that, not only is doubt a natural part of our faith journey, but that doubt can’t exist unless there is already faith at work in our lives?”