Dictionary.com defines cynical as “distrustful or contemptuous of virtue, especially doubting selflessness in others; believing the worst of others, especially believing that all acts are selfish.” Doesn’t really sound like someone I would like to spend a lot of time with. How about you?
I know it’s difficult not to be cynical given what we see in society. Politicians and corporate executives who are driven by greed and power, creating an economy that seems to be spiraling ever down. Violent acts against innocent victims Or maybe we are cynical because of our own personal experiences; someone has hurt us deeply or broken our trust. But our cynicism isn’t going to fix those problems. Cynicism just breeds more cynicism.
Yet, I fear there are times when I am guilty of judging the motives of others in the worst possible light, being a cynic of the worst sort. But of course all my actions are based on the most virtuous of motives! Not!!
When I find cynicism rearing its ugly head in my life, here are four steps I take to overcome it.
- Focusing on my purpose. I believe my ultimate purpose on this earth is to glorify God and do good unto others. How would it be possible that cynicism could have any part of that purpose?
- Recognizing that it’s not up to me to judge the motives of others. Only they know their hearts. I am responsible for my actions and choices. I have to answer for me. So let me make sure I have the best of motives.
- Stopping the cynicism! I know – that sounds oversimplified. But it’s kind of like Nike’s “Just Do It”. I am choosing the negative thoughts and comments. Only I can choose to stop them. No one else is going to do it for me. It’s like any other habit. At first it’s hard. But the more I replace a cynical, negative thought with a positive one, then the less cynical I am.
- Giving others the benefit of the doubt. For me this is the hardest one. I just know “they did that because (insert selfish motive here)”. Do I really know that? Can I read their mind, do I see what happens behind closed doors? Have I walked in their shoes? The answer to all is “no”. So assume the best instead of the worst. At first it hurts, but after a while it actually feels pretty nice.
These are only four things. There are countless others, I’m sure. Trust me. Practicing these will change your attitude and you will be less cynical. I don’t know this because I’m a behavioral expert, but because when I practice these behaviors, I become less cynical.
Lord Michael Hastings Commander of the British Empire and KPMG‘s Global Head of Citizenship and Diversity avowed that the single most effective way to change the world is overcoming cynicism. Give it a try. Changing your little corner of the world is the first step!