THE ANTIDOTE TO CYNICISM

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With the invention of social media, we have been given the opportunity (or burden) of seeing people’s internal lives become outward ones in a way we probably never would have dreamed as each expression, each post reveals something about the poster. Be it a video, an article, a picture—each one is unwittingly a snapshot of the interior of a person’s heart, life and inner landscape.

One thing that has become clearer than ever as I’ve observed this over the years is that it really is not possible to be a cynical person and a happy, peaceful or joyful person at the same time. They cancel each other out. Cynicism and joy are like oil and water: they don’t mix.

Loving people project outwardly a loving world. That doesn’t mean they don’t see the evil and darkness; they may see it more than anyone else. They just don’t believe that forever dwelling on it or pointing it out is the best way to extinguish it. Sitting in a dark room and talking about how dark the darkness is will never make it light. Only turning on a lamp or lighting a candle will do that.

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Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that.” And he ought to have known. He was on his feet, on the street, being love in a way that few people have ever been. Ironically, that’s why he was killed. To draw a movement of that size around the force of non-violent love is scary to those who are in opposition to it. Jesus knew that too.

The cynic, on the other hand, has a problem for every solution, a sarcastic comment for every positive one, a suspicious thought for every good you have the audacity to point out.

It will suck the energy out of you to attempt to reason with a cynic.

Yes, we need to question things, speak out against injustice, expose evil, but it needs to be tempered with grace and loving intention, otherwise no one will listen no matter how loud someone yells. A bit of skepticism is necessary so that we don’t fall for every trick. For example, I don’t trust governments, any government (except maybe the former president of Uruguay, “Jose’ Mujica–the world’s most humble president“)…with good reason. But if we’re spiritually tuned in, we won’t fall for anything and everything. Well, hopefully.

The problem happens when cynicism and skepticism are chronic, as in non-stop. At that point, it’s more of an illness of bitterness and suspicion than just a tick.

So, I put forth a suggestion, an antidote: instead of railing against cynics for how cynical they are, I would bid us to pray for them instead. Or if you’re not prone to praying, send loving thoughts in their direction, no matter how difficult or impossible that may seem.

Think: how unhappy must a person be to constantly dwell on awful things? How powerless must one feel to feel powerful only when sharing their (often volatile) opinions? How unheard must one feel? How alone? How hopeless? How afraid? No matter what show of bravado is there, it’s a pretty good bet that each cynic is inwardly afraid of something that even they can’t name.

It is heart-breaking…and infuriating.

And that’s why they need our prayers. Because we, who arm ourselves with love and light, have been given more power than we allow ourselves to believe.

We have the power to speak words of hope, to speak words of beauty, to create, to do all those things St. Francis talked about in his prayer to be an instrument of peace.

I, for one, will continue to believe that love can drive out hate and darkness. And I will continue to believe it can even heal and free people’s bound-up hearts that are shackled in chains of fear and gloom. Will you join me?

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10 THINGS TO DO WHEN THINGS LOOK HOPELESS

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1) Pray. If you’re not the praying type, then sit quietly and meditate on something good, true or beautiful. A few minutes, or one minute. You might find it so beneficial that you stay with it for longer periods of time and eventually might want to do it every day.

2) Call a friend and pour your heart out. Go ahead. Don’t be shy. Don’t convince yourself nobody wants to hear about your problems. Just call and ask if your friend has some time to spare and tell them that you’re needing a shoulder to lean on. Then let it out—the hurt, anger, sadness, grief, despondency, fear. Sometimes just being allowed the freedom to express how you’re feeling, and to know you’re supported, can lift a huge boulder off your back and help you to believe that things can get better. We’re not meant to carry our burdens alone.

3) Remember another time when things seemed hopeless and they ended up working out okay, or better than you thought, even if they got pretty unpleasant (or even horrendous) in the middle.

4) Watch something—like a movie or video about someone who overcame impossible odds, survived and went on to lead an amazing life. You could even watch nature—the way an ant will carry a piece of dirt or food that seems too heavy for it and try again and again until it succeeds. Or a bumblebee. Did you know that aerodynamically, it’s actually “impossible” for bumblebees to fly? Bumblebees don’t know that though, so they go right on flying.

5) Listen to a song that inspires you and makes you happy (sing along at the top of your lungs). If you don’t have access to music for some reason, sing or whistle. It’s medically proven that both are good for your health and mind.

6) Get moving. Moving your body can release endorphins in your brain which will help you feel more positive. Dance, go for a walk, go running, do yoga, just do something that reminds you that you have a body. And don’t forget to breathe and notice your breathing. This alone can help you feel more grounded.

7) Do something nice for someone else. It makes the other person happy and it will automatically make you feel better. It’s an amazing principle woven into the fabric of the universe.

8) Make a gratitude list. You might be thinking, “A gratitude list?! I’m going through the worst thing imaginable.” I know. Just try it. Start with 1 thing. Then 3. Then 5. Then work your way up to 10. You may find that just writing down one thing will lead you to think of a bunch of other things you hadn’t thought about till now. Examples: friends, the ability to see, the ability to hear, good books, drinkable water, etc.

9) Do something—anything—to improve whatever you feel hopeless about…even if it seems pointless and like it won’t make any difference at all. Joan Baez said, “Action is the antidote to despair,” and she was right. One small positive action might be the beginning of everything turning around for the better. Don’t underestimate the power of starting small.

10) Believe that everything will be okay. It’s better to be an optimist and be wrong than to be a pessimist and be right. If everything ends up turning out well, think of all the days and hours you will have wasted fretting and worrying and being anxious. It’s always better to have faith. It’s better for your entire immune system, your muscles, and every part of your brain. Pessimism isn’t good for anything.

If you need help getting started with any of these and you’d like to schedule a free 30-minute exploratory coaching call with me, please click here for an appointment.

Grace & love,

Monique