Part 2: Cynicism – The Worst Form of Pessimism
One of the biggest deterrents to your child-like prayer is cynicism. Your cynical spirit is the opposite of childlikeness. To be cynical means you have a negative attitude toward the world. Cynism creates a numbness toward life. Your outlook on life says nothing good will ever happen to you, or for you, ever. The world already caused you damage and even when good things happen, you cannot be happy because you are holding your breath waiting for the negative to follow quickly behind. There is a “doom and gloom” about your life you cannot shake.
Unfortunately, you approach prayer cynically because you tried it in the past and did not see God work through your prayers. You quickly wonder if praying makes any difference at all. Even when you attempt to pray, and God responds, you often wonder if, by the laws of nature, it would have happened anyway. You feel phony and skeptical that others aren’t phony too. Bad experiences and circumstances in life extinguished your hope.
I could continue at great length discussing the vein of skepticism running through your heart, but today’s blog focuses on several ways Jesus leads you to a cure for cynicism. Cynicism is a powerful spiritual sickness that begins with doubt. Check out part one of this series, prayer killers to understand how doubt is the foundation of cynicism.
One problem is your spiritual condition doesn’t heal quickly. But have hope! Overcoming it comes through the power of the Holy Spirit, along with your effort to seek him. Jesus defeated death with the help of the Holy Spirit; he certainly can help you overcome your cynicism.
Sin is never easy to face – I know because I face it right along with you. The issue is your attitude causes intense feelings of superiority because you think you can see through everything. Your belief tells you people around you are not honest. You seem to have the ability to recognize the sin (or beam, as the Bible says) in everyone else but lack purity in your own heart. Ouch!
Unfortunately, there is a fracture between your heart, your thinking, and your behavior. You talk about Jesus without the presence of Jesus. There is a disconnect between the empty religious performance of your speech, thought, and action, so you feel phony, like a split personality. In feeling, or believing you are phony, you assume everyone is phony too. Cynicism focuses on the other person’s split personality and need for repentance. It lacks the humility necessary to first take the beam out of your eye. Sadly, it takes bold truth like this to point out the errors of your heart, mind, and subsequent behavior.
Repentance, however, brings the split personality together followed by restoration of hope. It heals the cynicism you feel. It’s a matter of coming out of denial, facing the truth doubt plays in your life, and humbling yourself before God in sincere repentance to break the chain of cynism.
Philippians 4:6 focuses on a spirit of gratitude. It says “Don’t worry about anything. Thank [God] for what he has done.” Verse 8 tells you what to be thankful for so you know how to come to God with the grateful heart. It says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” I created a video about anxiety. However, it discusses deeply the meaning of Philippians 4:6-8. You can click on this link to watch the video to gain a better understanding of how this passage will help your attitude of gratitude.
Nothing eliminates your cynism better or faster than a spirit of thankfulness. Thankfulness isn’t a matter of forcing yourself to see the happy side of life. Your cynical heart quickly feels phony when praying a prayer of gratitude, but God uses your continued attempts, (let me say again), continued attempts to soften your pessimistic heart and return it to a hopeful heart. Thanking God restores the natural order of your dependence on God. Eventually, it enables you to see life as it is – beautiful, enjoyable, and full of the glory of God.
C.S. Lewis said, “Those who will never be fooled can never be delighted because without self-forgetfulness there can be no delight.”
Have you ever watched a child be a kid? Have you seen the freedom they have to be whatever they want or do whatever they want? Children are delighted with the simplest of things: a butterfly meandering in a field of flowers, the feel of a puppy dog’s tongue on their faces, a single balloon, the sound of their voice in a drinking glass…and so much more! Unfortunately, your cynical attitude cannot be childlike. No one can fool you, so you can never be delighted.
To break free and become childlike, first I recommend watching children to get an idea of their incredible attitudes. Kids are so free from the burdens you put on yourself! God wants you to enjoy the same freedom when you come before him and cast your burdens upon Jesus.
Second, stop analyzing what you don’t know and begin clinging to what you do know about God even if it is only one small thing! Remember who He is: loving, kind, full of grace, merciful, steady, never-changing, creator, Father and [fill in the blank.] As you begin to focus on what you do know, the things you don’t know fall away.
The baby steps you take, one at a time, each day, bring you closer to God and further away from cynicism. You may not believe it now as you read these words, but being focused and intentional brings victory in the future.
Three words: cynicism kills hope. Your cynical world is fixed and immovable. Dreaming feels like foolishness. Risk becomes intolerable. Prayer seems pointless as if you are talking to the wind.
But, Jesus is all about hope. Hope begins with the heart of God. Your cynical heart believes in the Christian hope of redemption, but you lack trust. You breathe in and out with a cynical spirit all the while missing the heart of God. However, when you begin to trust the heart of God and how he loves to give, then prayer starts to feel completely natural to you. It can take time, but as you persevere with God, you will find it more comfortable and more natural every moment. Trusting takes time…one experience at a time.
Once you step out in faith to begin your prayer life over, you can count on the examples from the life of Jesus. Click on this link to learn how to use his example to return to an optimistic relationship with God through prayer.
The only real way to turn from a weary, cynical spirit is to focus your eyes on Jesus only. Cynicism looks in the wrong direction. You must re-orient your heart from focusing on yourself, and the world, to looking up at the cross.Repenting; Being thankful; Becoming childlike; Renewing Hope = Cure from cynicism. Click To Tweet
Transforming your pessimistic prayer life takes eradicating the cynicism deep within your heart. It’s not impossible, but it will take intentional day-by-day humility before God. Throughout the Bible, especially in the first four books of the New Testament, Jesus gives many examples of how you should pray. To understand those instances better, follow this link for the final part of this three-part series: Jesus’ Example.
“Think about things of heaven, not the things of earth.” Colossians 3:2