Pastor and author Carey Nieuwhof tells us that his book Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the Seven Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences (see my review here) is for people who want to see the signs that there’s a major life challenge ahead before it’s too late. The signs he looks at exist for all of us, no matter what stage of life’s journey we might be on. He tells us that none of these signs – cynicism, compromise, disconnection, irrelevance, pride, burnout, emptiness— need to be our final story, but we can see them coming. He tells us that if we regularly do what we were created to do, the likelihood of growing cynical, disconnected, proud, or irrelevant diminishes.
I found his chapter on cynicism particularly interesting. To start, let’s define what is meant by cynicism. Nieuwhof states that cynicism is simply the general distrust of others or a lack of hope in people or their desires. At its worst, it becomes jaded negativity, skepticism, contempt or scorn.
I’ve never really considered myself to be a cynical person. What about you, do you consider yourself cynical? Take a few minutes to take Nieuwhof’s Cynicism Quiz to see how cynical you are.
Nieuwhof states that cynicism isn’t just something other people experience, it’s something you sense growing within you. Cynicism begins not because you don’t care, but because you do care. It starts because you poured your heart into something, and got little in return. Or maybe you got something in return, but it was the opposite of what you desired.
Cynicism grows beyond its infancy when you start to protect yourself from future hurt. Past pain will become future hurt if you let it. So, you don’t let it.
He tells us that perhaps most disturbingly, cynicism begins to infect our relationship with God. When we close your heart to people, we close our heart to God.
He tells us that cynicism is actually a choice. Cynics aren’t born, they are made. Life doesn’t make you a cynic, instead, you make yourself a cynic.
He goes on to state that of all people on earth, Christians should be the least cynical, because the gospel gives us the greatest reasons to hope.
He states that an effective antidote to cynicism is curiosity. Cynical people are rarely curious (they already know the answer). On the other hand, curious people are almost never cynical.
He tells us that some qualities of the relentlessly curious are:
- Never stop learning
- Ask great questions
- Are interested in others and in new experiences
- Don’t settle for standard answers
- Push the boundaries
- Smile when no one else does
- Believe when most people don’t
- Widen their universe when everyone else is narrowing theirs
To battle cynicism, how do we become more curious? Nieuwhof gives us several suggestions:
- Schedule thinking time.
- Click on links in your social media feed.
- Ask more questions.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Give fewer answers.
- Say “I don’t know” more often.
- Say “Yes” more often to new and interesting things.
- Stop taking things for granted.
- Ask why.
- Ask why not?
- Try to find connections between random things.
- Read outside of your normal area.
- Lose your fear.
- Get around some kids.
Nieuwhof tells us that if we cultivate curiosity long enough, hope will flourish. And when hope flourishes, cynicism doesn’t stand a chance.
After reading a little about cynicism, does that change your answer as to whether you are becoming a cynical person? Why not try a little curiosity?