Confronting cynicism

If jadedness is clouding our view of the world around us, it’s worth considering things from God’s point of view. As a woman found when confronted with rampant cheating and bad behavior during her days as a high school teacher, this perspective can make a real difference.

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Some days I feel cynicism will swallow me up and spit me out. There seems to be so much going on in society that is just plain wrong – unkind, unjust, and untempered. Sometimes the bombardment in my mind of jaded, negative thoughts and attitudes feels unrelenting.

Fortunately, I have learned through my study of Christian Science that turning to God in prayer can bring answers and peace. So I’ve been thinking about what God knows about us and whatever situation may be disturbing us.

For instance, it can seem that qualities of untrustworthiness and deceptiveness are unavoidable. But there’s a spiritual counterfact to that deduction: the spiritual reality that God creates man (meaning all of us) in God’s very own image, as His, Her, likeness. As the image of God, who is all good, the true character of each of us reflects our one divine Maker. So the only legitimate character or nature we can have includes qualities that are representative of God’s goodness.

Recognizing this spiritual fact enables us to begin seeing past bad behavior to the presence, albeit not obvious, of man’s innate goodness and purity. And this doesn’t mean overlooking wrongdoing, but rather recognizing that everyone is capable of doing better. It’s not easy, but God helps us do it. Christ Jesus, God’s Son, came to show us how.

Christ Jesus was the perfect example of the divine nature personified, as well as a role model for how to avoid cynicism. No matter who or what Jesus encountered, no matter how hypocritical or self-serving those around him acted, Jesus did not waver from his rock-solid conviction that as children of God, everyone is intrinsically good. This Christly understanding of others’ spiritual purity brought physical and moral healing and reformation where needed.

Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, was often maligned and misrepresented during her lifetime, even by her family. In her later years, calculating foes sued for total control of her estate and copyrights, and managed to dupe her son into joining the plaintiffs.

Yet Mrs. Eddy held uncompromisingly to the truth Jesus proved, that evil has no legitimacy, and is “neither person, place, nor thing...” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 71). When the litigation was eventually decided in her favor, she immediately sat down and wrote a letter of forgiveness to one who had disparaged her.

While I certainly never had an experience anything like those mentioned above, I confronted cynicism earlier in my life when I taught at a high school that was rife with cheating. The brazenness of the cheating was appalling and disturbing. There seemed to be no respect for honesty or integrity of any kind. There were also occasions when one of the students would stand up and berate me in front of the class.

The effort to see these students as more than what these actions portrayed was a struggle which, frankly, I didn’t always win. Nevertheless, I endeavored to mentally identify them as children of God, full of goodness, purity, and uprightness. In God’s eyes these young men and women were not flawed mortals but wholly spiritual models of integrity. Nothing could change that spiritual fact. Evil could not present itself in their names. Mrs. Eddy wrote, “In the Science of good, evil loses all place, person, and power” (“No and Yes,” p. 24).

And soon there were improvements. For example, the in-class behavior of a particularly difficult student changed. And the group of students I taught the following year proved to be sincere, earnest learners.

No, I haven’t been completely healed of cynicism yet. But as I work at it, I’m encouraged by these ideas and others. As we put spiritual truths into practice, we’ll see some progress in how we respond to situations around us or in the news. God supplies each of us daily with the insight, forgiveness, and grace to begin glimpsing that all God’s children have in spiritual reality only the divine nature.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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