In Chaplain, Spiritual Care

From Cynicism to Love

I remember sitting there in church listening along to the preacher but doubting his every word. Of course, I was enamored by his finesse and gravitas when I first heard him preach, but by now a few years had gone by and I found the man behind the pulpit was not the same as the man Monday through Friday. The more I got to know him the more flaws I saw in him and the more I became disenchanted; the more I became distrustful. I began as a follower but ended as a cynic. Maybe you can relate?

Cynicism is a complete distrust of people. It assumes people are motivated by self-interest and don’t really care about the common good. Sure, the cynic can see the good being done in the world, but she knows behind every person doing good there is some kind of dubious motivation.

The thing with cynicism is that it is like a contagion; it quickly spreads throughout all areas of your life. From one’s view of the church to politics to your spouse. Everything becomes infected by cynicism. It kills the joy in nearly all areas of your life. So, why do we do it?

Well, we often become cynical because of the standards we hold. We can hold extremely high standards that no one can possibly reach, not even ourselves. Take my own example. I became cynical towards my pastor because I felt like he wasn’t perfectly exemplifying every word he preached. Of course, there is some truth to the minister’s life being an example to others, but “perfect” seems just a bit too high of a standard. In fact, my standards were so high, that no pastor would have been able to fulfill them.

The truth is that the criticism I was feeling towards my pastor rose from the negativity I was feeling toward myself. My inner critic was saying, “what I do or who I am is never enough.” When I directed that negativity outward, my pastor received the full brunt of it. This is how cynicism spreads. It is birthed out of a lack of self-compassion, becomes self-hate, and grows into judgment of everyone around you.

The one thing missing in our judgment of others and our judgment of ourselves is love. Love does not fit in well with the mindset of a cynic.

As one author I read said, we tend to hold higher standards for ourselves and for others than God does. God is full of love, compassion, grace, and forgiveness. Cynicism is full of contempt, criticism, and judgment. God’s word to me is, “I love you as you are with all your imperfections.” Yet, my word to myself is often, “Get your act together.”   

This love that God has for us is defined in detail in Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church. He says, “Love is patient, love is kind… it keeps no record of wrongs… It always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” This kind of love is breathtaking. It’s a kind of love that is for those of us who are less than perfect. It is the kind of love that can’t coexist with cynicism.

Am I ready to embrace this kind of love? I want to say yes, but I know how loud my inner-critic can be. I know how difficult it is to not be critical. I know it will mean accepting that I am enough; I’m imperfect and I am worthy of love. Then it will mean loving the imperfect people around me.

There is a moment in the life of Jesus when he exemplifies this love in a potent way. As he hung on the cross in searing pain, he said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus had every reason to be cynical towards the government, his friends, and the crowds, but instead, he chose love. He had no reason to trust anyone, but he kept no record of wrong. He was the beloved of God and he invited others into that love.

Cynicism is an attractive option in our world right now, but it will ultimately only hurt us. It will turn us against ourselves and others. The love that does not dishonor people and is not self-seeking is the path forward our world needs to follow. It’s the path forward I need to follow. I may be a long way off from fully embodying this kind of love, but I’m thankful that Jesus has led the way on my behalf and has promised love never fails.


Peace be upon you,

Chaplain Travis Jamieson


Discover Your Best Life at Beacon Hill at Eastgate


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