We have all been cynical about something or the other during our lives. Some would say that the longer we live, the more cynical we tend to become. Indeed, cynicism can be useful. The danger with it is that cynicism can begin to affect how we view human nature and life itself.

Cynic as the diagnostician

Cynicism can be helpful when it encourages us to examine situations more deeply — to question motives, incentives and hidden agendas. It can be powerful when it leads us to ask why and to challenge established ways thinking.

Cynicism is closely related to scepticism, in so far that it might lead us to look beneath the surface presentation of matters. And that is a good thing. In a culture where highly sophisticated media messages and propaganda infiltrate every walk of our lives, a degree of cynicism can allow us to understand how we might be exploited and manipulated in often subtle ways.

The danger with cynicism is that if we are not aware of our own thought patterns, it can lead us down the path of pessimism and hopelessness.

Cynic turned pessimist

If we are not careful, cynicism can make us lose hope. Having diagnosed the state of affairs, cynicism can cause us to resign ourselves into believing that “things will never change” or that “people are a particular way”. That is simply not true.

Human beings are endowed with such intelligence that we have the power to live anyway we choose. Social conditioning and psychological biases may mean people are less able to see a different way to the prevailing state of things, but that is not the end of it.

Self as the instrument of change

The human mind holds the power to creating a world where we can all make the best of each other. Clinging to cynicism as a lens through which we view humanity limits us. If cynicism has led us to a diagnosis of the situation, then it is up to us to move beyond this.

It is up to us to become the very change that we want to see. It may not be easy, particularly if our actions seem at odds with what is around us, but it is the only way. If we do not have the courage and the fortitude to change ourselves, how can we expect more of others?