“Scratch any cynic and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.” – George Carlin
My friend once told me, “Cynicism isn’t hard to understand. You simply need to close your eyes and imagine your high school cafeteria.”
Danny took me back down memory lane. I thought about lunch at my high school (and a few scenes with Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls). Danny talked about cynicism being “the head table in the high school cafeteria.” I still cackle when I think of his mental image of cynicism. He said, “Try to be positive or hold out hope at the ‘cynics table’ and you get yanked back real quick. Take steps to sit with the visionary weirdos and you get a bean burrito thrown in your back.”
Over coffee and egg sandwiches that day, Danny taught me an important truth.
Hope is often opposed.
Sadly, there are some people that don’t want you to hope again. Some are passive about it and others take active steps to keep you where you’ve been.
Why would someone else want you to stay cynical?!
Here is the sad truth. Your hopeful living shows them there is another way to live. And they are afraid to change, maybe even afraid to lose you as a friend.
Your hopeful living more than establishes proof that cynicism is not the only option. Your hopeful living may even show that there is a better option than cynicism. When your hopeful living begins shining a light on another person’s cynicism, you need to get ready because they may oppose you.
That opposition may bring your relationship to a crossroads. Sadly, in some instances, you may have to choose between hopeful living and your current community of friends.
I had to make this choice myself. I spent years at the head table in the cafeteria. I was cynical, bitter, and angry. I joined other people in the criticism of the problems in our organization and shaming of those who were part of those problems.
However, when I decided I wanted to move away from cynicism and began to pursue a new path, I made some big changes.
I chose to change the people I talked with most frequently. I changed the books I read. I unsubscribed to certain blogs and podcasts. I stopped following certain people on social media. I stopped attending the “meetings after the meeting”.
I don’t know if I “had” to do all these things, but I was over being cynical. I was tired of being bitter and angry. And I knew that circle of friends and those sources of influence were fueling my cynicism. They wouldn’t fuel my move to more hopeful living.
These moves were not understood, and at times, they were not appreciated. Others questioned whether I was now ignoring problems. They wondered why I was acting this, knowing I knew what was broken in our organization.
At times, I was scared of this path. I was afraid that if I stopped listening to these voices I had become so accustomed to including my friends, I might begin to ignore the problems and become comfortable with the status quo.
I didn’t want to hurt my friends, but I couldn’t stay where I was any longer.
Looking back, I can say with confidence – the situations which frustrated all of us did not change one bit.
But I did.
The problems did not change, but my perspective did. The way I engaged them had been permanently altered.
If I’m totally honest, though, I still felt this tug of war inside of me as I started a new pilgrimage, towards hope. Maybe you have felt this feeling too.
You sense a growing hope in your spirit. Or at least an openness to hope. And then you’re like a small child wearing one of those leash backpacks at Disneyland. You’re get yanked back to reality.
That feeling of whiplash between growing hope and resistant cynicism can hold us captive. It can derail the momentum we have begun to experience towards a future that does not resemble our past.
If you’re in that space, I want to encourage you.
If you’ve been feeling alone in your turn towards hope, if you’ve been feeling isolated as you push back against the cynicism that has reigned in your heart, hear these words.
You are not the only one who is seeking to reject cynicism and embrace hope. You are not the only person who has realized the powerlessness of fear to give us the life we have always wanted. You are not alone in realizing that your choice to protect yourself from more hurt has kept you from experience what you most deeply long for and desire.
Other people have walked this road before you. Don’t give up when you feel that whiplash.
Other people will walk a hopeful road after you because of your courage. They are watching you, looking for inspiration. They’re thinking, “If she can live with courage and hope, instead of fear and cynicism, then maybe I can too.”
Don’t give up. We need your life, lived with hope and courage.
One of the most important steps you can take in moving from cynicism to hope is to figure out what renews your hope and what restores a healthy perspective.
I quickly identified what fueled my cynicism and empowered my critical spirit. But I had to learn what renewed my hope and restored my perspective.
I discovered reading people who were building something new gave me a vision of what could be. I read the words of author and entrepreneur, Jennie Allen, who said, “Somebody asked me – how do you overcome cynicism? My response – start building things. Then there’s no energy to tear down.”
I found that getting my thoughts out of my head and on paper helped me to get more perspective on how I felt. So, I started journaling again.
I identified people around me who were living with hope (not idealism – there is a big difference.) And I began having coffee with them regularly, leaning on them for a sounding board and outside input. I also found new blogs to subscribe to, new podcasts to listen to, and new books to read.
As a follower of Jesus and a pastor, I began engaging the Bible again for myself, not for other people or my job. I began praying, without an agenda or a goal. Just talking to God, sharing my struggles and listening in silence.
Engaging these habits and practices didn’t fix the problems which had disabused me of my idealism. But these actions did help me rise above the problems with a sense of hope that I could make a difference with my actions and help others, even in a very difficult environment.
I’m curious. What are those practices for you? What habits and actions can you engage which reset your perspective and restore your hope?
Recently, I made a list of my habits and actions. The items on this list became The #HopeDose Giveaway. I’ve launched the giveaway to give one lucky person a collection of tools which help me reset my perspective and renew my hope. This giveaway includes, but is not limited to, a Baron Fig Notebook, a John Maxwell Leadership Study Bible, a Starbucks gift card, and Jeff Goins’ new book Real Artists Don’t Starve (one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in 2017). The seven items in the giveaway total $140 in retail value. You can enter the giveaway at scottsavagelive.com/giveaway and multiple entries are accepted. Entries must be received by 3 AM EDT on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.
As a recovering cynic and a voice of hope, my prayer for you is that you’d have the courage to believe that hopeful living is possible. Even if it means you take a few burritos in the back.
Robert Sobukwe had that kind of courage and more. Sobukwe was a political leader who facilitated resistance under South Africa’s Apartied in the 1960s. Sobukwe’s words were an encouragement to me at a time where I felt like giving up and quitting due to the frustration I had with the slowness of change and growth around me. I hope they’re an encouragement to you today too.
“We are the first glimmers of a new dawn. And if we are persecuted for our news, we should remember that it is darkest before the dawn, and that the dying beast kicks most violently when it is giving up the ghost.”
Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer. He lives near Prescott, Arizona with his wife (an attorney) and his three “little savages.” You can read more of his writing at scottsavagelive.com and follow him on social media // Twitter: @scottsavagelive // Instagram: @scottsavagelive