The Collins Dictionary online gives a ‘British’ definition of cynical as “distrustful or contemptuous of virtue” and “believing the worst of others” as well as “sarcastic” and “mocking.” So why be cynical? Recently I have seen a lot of cynical opinions and behaviour, and one conclusion is that cynicism is a shade of fear. We like to engage in the conversation, to make a point, but from a place of safety, sometimes a place of superiority. I will not be passionate and lay my cards on the table. I will not be effusive and enthusiastic and optimistic and say what I actually want, what I’m scared of not getting. That would make me vulnerable, I will not do that.
So instead, with cynicism, we can make fun of people doing the very things I think we might just envy: being enthusiastic, trying, being vulnerable. Do we think, “those people have it easy?” Because no one has it easy… that’s an illusion. There are just different problems, different levels of severity. Everyone’s life has hard times and involves problems that must be overcome. Everyone has hopes and aspirations that worry them. Likely some of us see things as harsh and unfair because of past experience. Devastatingly we all have difficult experiences to contend with, feel negative and despair. It is a challenge not to dwell amongst our fears and doubts, difficult to find our way back to a positive frame of mind. Yet most of us do have the pleasure of positive moments and the opportunity to try to overcome negative experiences, to avoid them hardening into a generally negative outlook.
It could go without comment, only it causes avoidable pain and suffering. If we spit out our doubts and fears at others or laugh from a distance at people trying to be happy, the best they can be, people brave enough to expose themselves to criticism. If we knock others to steady ourselves, put people down to make ourselves look or feel better, we become culprits. We hurt people. When we feel inclined to criticize I think maybe we actually feel fearful and fall back on cynicism in an attempt to make ourselves feel secure. Maybe there is even an interesting point to be made, if so then certainly I would rather it be made constructively.
Cynicism scares me because I don’t want a distrustful or contemptuous world, I won’t accept that it must be so. Why contribute to it being so? I don’t think the rewards of cynicism, the fleeting, feigned superiority and security, can be worth living with and contributing this negativity. I think perhaps the cynic is also a ‘victim.’ It is isolating and defeatist, a big dead end. Instead of criticizing can we contribute constructively? Could we be positive, insightful and inspiring, or even better share our difficult and painful truths? Because we won’t benefit from looking smart by criticizing others like we will benefit by finding the strength to share our deepest fears and perceived inadequacies.
I will persevere in trying to be positive. Stand by the value of being optimistic, even though it’s hard. Even when I’m in pain, and doubt, when things go wrong and it feels too hard. It gives me sustenance to know I try to be positive, kind to others and optimistic. If you like to get involved in debates, express opinions, be brave enough to offer words and ideas that could benefit us all. Try to contribute constructive opinions that might improve a situation, even if this makes you vulnerable to the criticism of others. We might all be better to persevere in the pursuit of being positive. I know it is hard not to be fearful, but I believe we’re always capable of more than cynicism.