Is Cynicism A Virtue?

When did cynicism become a virtue?

How did we get to a place where being cynical, jaded, distrustful, and pessimistic is so widely accepted and often embraced as a sign of intelligence and maturity?

Why is a person who trusts others, takes people at their word, and is willing to extend grace seen as naïve, simple, and a pushover?

When did it become so rare to find a person who looks for the good in everyone and truly believes that everyone has something good to offer? Why is it that when we come across a person like Mr. Rogers, Tim Tebow, Joel Osteen, or Tim Sanders, we try so hard to find something negative about them? Why can’t we just accept that although they aren’t perfect, maybe they actually are as nice and positive as they seem?

Why are we so quick to accept as fact the statement “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”? Why are we so slow to accept that maybe some really good things actually do happen? Can’t there be some things that are just really, truly good? Why do we assume that there is always going to be a negative aspect or a let down every time something good happens?

Why do we often have an attitude of “I’ll trust you once you give me a reason to” rather than “I’ll trust you until you give me a reason not to”? Why do we choose to believe the negative until convinced otherwise instead of believing the good until convinced otherwise? When considering a situation or person, shouldn’t it take us more convincing to believe the bad than to believe the good?

It’s easy to justify our cynicism by saying we are just being “realistic” or “discerning”, but I think there is more to it than that. There is a difference between examining situations to find the truth, and being convinced that there is always a negative side to every good situation.

When we get to the point where we assume that the negative side of things is true and have to be convinced beyond a doubt about the positive, we have become cynical. Not only do we become miserable, but we become miserable to be around; I can’t think of many people who are more draining and depressing to be around than someone who is cynical and pessimistic.

By being cynical we are basically choosing to be miserable. It’s like telling ourselves that there has to be something bad in every situation, and I’m going to do whatever I can to find it. There is always something to complain about if you look hard enough, but if you look hard enough, there is always something to be happy about as well. It may be harder to find the good than the bad in some situations, but the feeling you get when you discover something good in a bad situation feels much better than uncovering the bad in a seemingly good situation.

It’s like we get some sort of twisted pleasure when something negative finally comes to light because it justifies our feelings and cynicism. Instead of anticipating someone’s failure, maybe we should try encouraging and supporting them instead. Instead of assuming that everyone will eventually fail, we ought to do what we can to encourage others and help them succeed. It seems like a fairly simple concept, but for some reason we have trouble grasping it.

Maybe sometimes we are just looking for a reason to be miserable because if we are miserable it means that things have to get better eventually, but if we are happy we feel like it’s just a matter of time until something bad happens. Do you want to know why other people seem so happy? It’s because they choose to be happy. Happiness is something you make happen, not something that happens to you.

Let your happiness be determined by what is rather than by what isn’t. Assume the best instead of fearing the worst. Celebrate others’ success instead of rooting for their failure. Believe that people have good intentions instead of assuming there is an ulterior motive. Look for the good in others and do whatever you can to help them develop and utilize what they have to offer. Be positive, not negative. The math is simple – a positive attitude adds happiness, but a negative attitude takes it away.

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