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5 Stages on the Road from Cynicism to Hope

Jun 16, 2015

“How did you get over your cynicism?”

As I’ve shared the story of my journey from cynicism to hope, friends have come to me with concern for someone they love who is stuck in cynicism. I had one conversation just a few days ago with someone about their boss and how they seem to be mentally stuck in a place where everything is interpreted negatively.

 

If moving beyond cynicism was a simple 3 step process, few people would be stuck and it would be less like hiking a mountain and more like walking on a beach. Like many areas of life, there’s more nuance and complexity than we often admit along the road from cynicism to hope. So, I’m not selling some magic elixir here.

However, I experienced five stages in my transition and as I’ve talked with others, they seem to be common for many of us.

1. Recognize nothing good comes from cynicism.

A Men’s Health article changed my life. It’s crazy but true! When I read this article about the hazards of cynicism, I began to realize my cynicism was not producing life in me, but the opposite of life. This realization sobered me. When I realized cynicism was not going to produce life through me, I began to realize I had to change.

If you’re cynical, you need to realize this for yourself. You might say, “Cynicism protected me from getting hurt again.” Or maybe, “cynicism helps me find problems or errors in others.”

Preventing bad is not the same as creating good. Cynicism has much more downside than upside. Ultimately, as cynics, we avoid risk and the success it leads to until the pain of staying becomes scarier than leaping. Anais Nin once wrote, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Cynicism causes more pain than we can know.

2. Become aware of your influence on others.

While recognizing the lack of good fruit which emerges from cynicism sobered me, I was unprepared for the awareness of how my cynicism influenced others. We all have an influence on others. It may or may not be accurately assessed by the size of our online platform, number of Facebook friends or volume of text messages we receive. Yet we all have someone who looks up to us.

I realized that blogging with a critical voice made it harder for my readers to find hope. When friends ask me how I’m doing, I remember how my mood and attitude impacts the my environment.

You and I have more influence than we realize – for good and bad.

3. Receive healing where you’ve been wounded.

One of the best definitions I’ve heard of a cynic is someone who was once an idealist but now refuses to be hurt or disappointed again. Cynicism is the balm we put on our wounds, thinking it will heal us. Cynicism doesn’t heal; it actually defers healing, preserving the wound instead.

Our greatest wounds can become the source of our greatest influence if we experience healing. Being forgiven and giving forgiveness are two of the most fundamentally human experiences. When we are healed, we can offer healing to others.

4. Accept your current reality while also looking beyond it.

Hope is not idealism. In its positivity, idealism is unaware of reality. Optimists often chooses to minimize or set aside reality in order to be positive. Hope fully embraces what is, while saying “there is something greater here beyond this.”

One of the reasons hope often seems anemic or laughable is our perception of hope. Many of us understand hope as weakness or naivete. Hope is actually strength with eyes wide-open. We cannot change a situation we’re ignoring and we cannot impact a world we refuse to acknowledge.

Courage is facing what is and choosing to believe and work towards what could be.

courage, overcoming cynicism and finding hope

5. Experience and celebrate small victories.

Truthfully, I started turning the corner when I was able to get a couple “wins.” Where my hopes weren’t dashed and my cynicism got it wrong. Remember my friend who asked “How did you get over your cynicism?” He was asking because he knows someone who is battling cynicism and he wants to be help that person. I said, “she is going to need a couple moments where her paradigm of being a victim or disappointed gets proven wrong.” We will never have an unlimited, unending line of those kind of moments. And we lack a lot of control in making these happen. But for me and those i know, those moments allowed just enough light to come into the darkness where hope could begin growing again.

Even this week, I’ve been moving through these stages myself. I was idealistic about what relaunching my blog and writing an ebook would do for increasing my traffic and exposure as a writer. Things haven’t exactly worked out the way I planned. This past week, I really struggled writing a post on-time and got a bit depressed about the progress I was making (or wasn’t making for that matter). I had been working on stages 1, 2 and 4 as described above, but without much progress.

Then, out of the blue, I had two emails in three days which embodied stage 5. The first was a unsolicited request to share a post of mine on a site with a larger audience, which would mean some new exposure. The second email was from a large site with a serious following who informed me they accepted a guest post I submitted weeks ago. Truthfully, I had forgotten about my submission, thinking it had been discarded. Those “small victories” let some light into my darkness and reminded me to keep pressing on and moving forward.

The road from cynicism to hope is broken and uneven. It lacks an HOV lane and all traffic moves slowly. However with each passing landmark, you can leave behind the pain and destruction of your woundedness and discover healing that allows you to be a voice of hope. I’m praying that you’ll find the courage to fight through your cynicism today…and discover hope on the other side!

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