I’m working on trying to be less cynical. I overheard a comment today about hard how people have been working this week, and my first thought was to remark about how poor the guy’s work ethic was. It wasn’t until I’d followed that train of thought for a little while that I realized that his statement was probably more observation, less surprise. So, I started examining his words in _that_ context and discovered a much more positive and upbeat viewpoint.
A little bit of cynicism is good – to a point. It keeps a person cautious and aware of the fact that people are rarely exactly the way they present themselves to the world, that they may, in fact, occasionally stab you in the back (whether purposefully or by accident). On the other hand, though, too much cynicism is a bad thing. It causes you to immediately assume the worst of people, whether they deserve it or not.
In this fast-paced culture where so many of our judgments of others depend on only brief exposure to them, we have to rely on stereotypes to fill in the gaps of our knowledge. Unfortunately, cynicism is, in itself, a stereotype, and it is one that generally causes more harm than good by flavoring every other stereotype that we hold. Many arguments and debates are caused by cynical attitudes, relationships are damaged by thinking the worst of others, and sarcasm carries with it a bitter undertone of cynicism. The only good way of countering harmful cynicism is to take the time to think things through, and that requires adopting a slower pace of life (or at least taking a time-out from life) and training yourself to be aware, both of the world around you and of your own attitudes toward it.
Cynicism has its place, I think, but it is a _bit_ like a fine spice – a little goes a long way.