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 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 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 guard against being 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.

Cynicism turned pessimism

If we are not careful, cynicism can make us lose hope, unnecessarily. Having diagnosed the state of affairs, we may resign ourselves into non-action. This is why there exists a difference between the cynic and the sceptic. In a sense, the cynic is not really seeking the truth and has an  a priori view that he is looking to confirm. So, he may wrongly become pessimistic when there is no need to be. Because he always expects people to behave in a certain way.

The sceptic on the other hand is seeking the ‘truth‘ whether that happens to converge to the cynic’s view or not. The sceptic does not fool herself about human greed and selfishness, but she ALSO recognises the human capacity for great generosity and change.

Self as the instrument of change

Clinging to cynicism as the only lens through which we view humanity limits us. It limits us by closing our minds to possibility and to making the best of each other.

It is up to us to become the very change that we want to see and to move beyond the comfort of cynicism. For, to move beyond cynicism, in a sense, requires us to take a risk and trust our fellow man.  And, if we do not have the courage to change our usual ways, how can we expect more of others?