Cynicism Versus Hope


A few quick thoughts on this, the third day of the New Year.  Pretty soon the shininess will wear off and it will be just the year.  


“All politicians are liars.”

“The government will always be corrupt.”   

“Everybody is just looking out for number one.”

I made a comment in a recent Facebook post that I consider cynicism to be cowardly.  I’m going to back up that statement.  

Cynicism likes to posture as cool.  Cynicism tells us that everything sucks and life is bitter and cruel but knowing this and being able to look it in the eye without blinking makes you superior.  You aren’t one of those saps who gets sucked in by all that Disney unicorns rainbows bull.  Some might call you jaded, but you just get it and refuse to sugarcoat anything.  

It follows from this philosophy that anyone trying to spread hope or believe things could improve is gullible, foolish, or trying to sell something.  Proper response to such lightweights or con artists includes suspicion, derision, and scathing sarcasm.  

Personally, I think the whole thing reeks of cowardice.  

If I don’t think there’s any hope in the world, I don’t have to try to make things better.  I don’t have to risk myself to help others. I don’t have to risk disappointment. I can turn away when I see refugees dying, when their children starve to death in those pathetic boats before they can reach shore.  I don’t have to let that rip my heart because it’s all pointless and everyone dies and what does it matter, anyway?  

Chicken feces.  

Being jaded does not make you cool.  Being jaded means you have given in to evil in the world and lack the courage to face it.  You might not be evil but you’re passive in the face of evil, and I’m not sure there’s any difference.*  Mocking others for remaining hopeful, being willing to risk themselves for a cause, choosing to believe in something, tells me you want to convince yourself that your dark view of reality is true.  If you make others’ hope look stupid, that proves you’re more worldly-wise and intelligent. Hope is for little children…along with the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and leprechauns.  

Every New Year, I exhort people to make the world a better place.  It’s time again.  I notice that as I get older, the fight to remain hopeful gets harder.  I’ve seen more.  I’ve watched things get worse.  I’ve seen more people die young of cancer, more people kill themselves with drugs and alcohol, more people who were once idealistic hunker down and get comfortable and complacent.  

So I’m saying it straight on this year:  Cynicism is cowardly and I won’t give in.  

I believe people can be redeemed.  

I believe God changes people’s hearts.

I believe forgiveness changes lives.  

I believe you are more than the worse thing you’ve ever done. 

I believe that even though things look very dark right now, we’re going to turn this tide.  

I’m going to continue investing my heart and my life in young people and walking with them through failure and tragedy and chaos because God is faithful and they still believe they can make a difference.  So do I.  

Yes, it’s “safer” to sneer and scorn and refuse to hope.  Yes, you can protect your heart from getting broken if you keep it to yourself.  Yes, there’s a lot of evidence that politicians lie and the government will remain corrupt and the rich will get richer and people will be selfish and hurt you.  

But that kind of safe is a lie, a temptation.  

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

–C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves


Hope is dangerous, too. I’m going to hope, anyway, not because I’m a fool, not because hoping is the grown-up version of refusing to accept there’s no Santa, but because hope is a revolutionary act.  Hope is courageous.  Hope changes us and others.  When we choose to be cynical, we reinforce that the evil we see cannot be changed.  When we choose to hope, we become part of that change.

Hope doesn’t mean denying the bad in the world, but looking straight at it and throwing yourself into making things better.  The world is such a bad place, it’s worth risking failure to try.  If we don’t have hope, we can’t have faith; acting on hope means our faith is active, not mere words or facade.  

This is my hope:  God’s love overcomes hatred and evil…in my heart.  

I have much forgiving to do this year.  That’s one of the things I’ll be working on and praying about, a lot.  

My hope starts in me and works outward.  Is God really going to change people who seem, empirically, committed to greed and selfishness and actual evil?  

God can.  God has.

God can change hearts.  God can break chains of systemic poverty and generational abuse.  God can free people of addiction.  

God can change you and me.  God can change the world through us.

I hope you believe that.  


*”He who passively accepts evil is as much involved with it as he who helps to perpetrate it.  He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really coooperating with it.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.  

4 thoughts on “Cynicism Versus Hope

  1. Cindy Ries

    People are often irrational and self centered but love them anyway says Saint mother Teresa I think that is hope like you are describing. Thanks

  2. when i was a teenager and in my early 20s, it was easy for me to think of positivity/hope as a sort of denial. when someone was touting positivity, it just meant: “let’s just ignore bad things and keep conversation shallow!”

    with that understanding of positivity, it made it really easy to think of cynicism and jadedness as the alternative to being fake.

    it’s sad, because i think a lot of people fall for that. we reject positivity/hope because we think it’s something it’s not.

    but real positivity isn’t denial. it’s defiance.

    hope is pretty badass.

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