Cynicism began in ancient Greece, probably with Diogenes who was known for his “dog-like” behavior. In fact, the word for cynic in Greek, kunikos, means exactly that. The early cynics were just like Diogenes. They were people who barked at those who displeased them, spurned Athenian etiquette, and lived from nature.
To the pure cynic, nature offers a clear means of how to live the “good life,” which is characterized by reason, self-sufficiency and freedom.
The dictionary definition of cynicism is, “an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest.” This is the closest to modern cynical thought. It is also the reason that many cynics are plagued by skepticism, its close kin.
A certain amount of cynicism is probably not entirely wrong: many people in our world do not tell the truth. But, cynicism and skepticism in the way many have been overcome by both is wrong.
An alarming number of people no longer trust any leadership, national or local. They believe everyone is lying to them, even those who are helping them spiritually. The news media is being ignored because a cynical public believes all the news media is biased.
It isn’t as if they haven’t had cause. From Richard Nixon in the 1970s to Barack Obama it is difficult to know who to believe. And, as far as some of our spiritual leadership is concerned, well, some of them have been authors of fiction for years. Some of the news media is biased.
But, to think everyone is lying and no one is believable is just not true. There are plenty of honest people still alive. Condemning the whole of any group is not only foolish, it’s wrong. All Mexicans are not rapists. All black people are not cop killers. All Italians are not crooked. Those who condemn an entire race are racist.
There is also an honest book of values that is truthful. It is the Bible. Perhaps cynical people don’t believe this because they’ve never really studied God’s word. Many accuse the Bible of having nothing but contradictions, but a careful study will show it does not contradict itself. The Bible is the inspired word of God and it says so (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Cynics can let their cynicism take possession of their reason. Andrew Byars wrote for “Christianity Today,” “So many believers have slid into those dark pits that cynicism is becoming vogue.” He continued, “To be cynical is to be spiritually ill.” Some are so ill they don’t even sense the illness of cynicism that has captured them.
It is one thing to make sure what we’re being told is the truth. It is another to think that everyone in the world is lying. That’s worse that the cynicism of ancient Greece. That’s just downright paranoid.