It happens to the best of us, and it is deadly. It has been said that half the battle is recognizing your enemies, and I have found mine -- or at least one of my top three.
Life can throw some serious curve balls at us. Even the most optimistic among us can end up bruised and broken by different forms of adversity that come our way. I have been accused more than once of being an idealist, and in some ways, the more idealistic you are, the more potential you have of becoming a cynic. After being hurt so many times, after so many disappointments, it is easy to slip into a self-protective cynicism, as if that will somehow save us from future disappointment.
The longer you live, the more opportunities you have to allow that heart of yours to develop a nice, crusty shell around it. But the truth is that you don't have to be as old as I am to become a cynic. You can start whenever you like -- as soon as disappointment or trauma appears.
You stop believing for the best in people and begin to distrust everyone.
You find yourself fixated on the darker side of humanity and fail to see the good and the beautiful. And here's the kicker: you blame God for the woes that have beset you, because, after all, we have to have someone to blame.
I know because I've been there. And the frightening thing is that it can sneak up on you so subtly that you wake up one day and discover that all the positive energy has been zapped from your life. And here is a great irony: while you are believing that everyone is nothing but self-interested, you yourself are becoming more and more self-focused. Let's face it -- it's hard to be others-oriented and cynical at the same time.
A recent Huffington Post article lists a number of the symptoms and consequences of a cynical outlook on life. Do any of these look familiar?
- physical ailments
- poor sense of well-being
- avoidance of cooperation or collaboration
...and some from my own observation:
- reduced creativity
- lack of vision
In my next post, we'll talk about some ways to recognize and overcome Public Enemy Number One.
How you have you been affected by cynicism? No, not your neighbor, you!