“A cynic is a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing” (Oscar Wilde)
“I have seen all of the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecc. 1:14)
Such idealism is a form of extremism. Imagine the dogmatic idealist insisting that the poor are good and then spending some time ministering in a soup kitchen. There are painful realities for which his philosophy has not prepared him.
So how does an idealist devolve into a cynic? Some have said that if you are not a liberal in your twenties that you have no heart but if you are not a conservative by your forties that you have no brain! But is cynicism just a function of aging and lowering your expectations? Is it normative for our idealists to mutate into cynics?
Of course not! The cynic is one who exists under a carapace of hardheartedness, unwilling to risk caring lest they be hurt again. They have gone from extreme to extreme: from a tie-died, user friendly worldview to one of bitterness and expectations of being screwed by the man.
What is to be done for the poor cynic? Is there an Elisha who can heal the bitter waters?
I believe that the cynic is one who has lost connection with the Head, Jesus. How does Jesus see the world? To him the world is made up of sheep, harassed and helpless. He is not filled with disgust; rather, he is consumed with compassion. He spends three days ministering to the spiritual wounds of the people who flock to see him and insists that his disciples feed the thousands as well. Jesus loves the poor not because they are cuddly and kind but because they are his children. If we connect to Jesus as Lord, we connect to his concerns as well.
is a painful possibility. Is it possible that God purposely frustrates the
merely idealistic? Imagine the poor idealist striving in his own power to do
good and meeting with unlimited success. Such a man will always work out of his
own flesh and why not? I love Bruce Cockburn’s lyrics: “Let’s have a laugh for
the man of the world, who thinks he can make things work. Tried to build a New
Jerusalem and ended up with New York.”
Does God then shake our idealism to cause something more mature to be birthed
For cynicism is not maturity. It is choosing wound-licking over compassion. Mature Christianity takes the commands of loving our neighbors seriously, not glossing them over to pursue a lifestyle that would make the early Church retch. We are called to be mature, to see the world through Christ-shaded glasses, to love even as we are loved. Perhaps at last, healing for the wounded idealist can only come once they realize that they are loved in spite of their evident flaws. Perfect love casts out fear and it also does a pretty good number on shame as well.
Youth With a Mission has a pretty good saying: “God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.” Their point is that circumstances might be crappy, people might be resistant to the Gospel, but God is unchanging and he is good.