cynicism’s erosiveness

“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper [about someone or a political party or a nation we consider ourselves on opposite sides of an issue on].  Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out.  Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible?  If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils.  You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker.  If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black.  Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything–God and our friends and ourselves included–as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed forever in a universe of pure hatred.”

–C.S. Lewis “Mere Christianity

I encountered these words today while reading “Mere Christianity” and it made me think of the profound cynicism we see each and every day in the world around us and even–sadly–in our own lives.  The erosive nature of cynicism scrapes away trust and belief–at increasingly exponential speeds–in larger humanity, people of authority in our lives like pastors, bosses, community and national leaders…and even family, ourselves, and, ultimately, God Himself.

No one wants to believe that their enemy ever means well…and more and more…we wonder if anyone could possibly ever mean well.  When we see the world with a dark view, nothing good is possible.  We see people as sinister and conniving and selfish and abusive.  People who will take advantage of another person for their own good anytime the opportunity arises.  Of course, this is not an accurate view of the best of humanity.  Cynicism draws us in away from people.  It raises our cautions past levels that are healthy, because it can only serve to kill the good in us.  Cynicism kills our belief in people.  And that is a dangerous place to be.

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