Others have nicer names for it, names such as “compassion fatigue” or “burn out” or “emotional exhaustion.”
I suppose all of those terms are accurate, but in myself I see it as plain, unvarnished cynicism.
Sometimes the needs of the world close in on me until I cannot breathe, then I crash under the weight.
I don’t usually write or talk about it, except for a very few people who are close to me, because I know what I say won’t be helpful when I feel like the whole world is stupid and I’m one of the only sane ones left.
True, parents feeding their toddler kerosene is stupid. Getting high on drugs while your two-year old is circling the yard is stupid. So is arguing on Facebook about America being so Christian that we don’t need the Holy Spirit. Pastors refusing communion to Christians just because they aren’t dressed quite right makes me want to knock my head against the wall. Infant baptism, taking the choice away from children to choose Jesus for themselves, feels wrong to me. Churches thinking that hiding sexual abuse protects their reputation are among the stupidest of all. The world is full of paradoxes.
And I feel helpless in the face of it all, as if nothing I do makes a difference. I write and write about the Holy Spirit, and people still don’t believe Him. My voice is lost in space, too frail to be noticed and heard.
It makes me feel listless and hopeless and cynical.
Tonight while we were eating supper, I laid down my forkful of green beans and asked Will, “Did Jesus ever get tired of stupid?”
“Sure He did!” Will said. “It says so in the Bible!”
And yes, it does.
And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?”
Matthew 17:14-17a (ESV) emphasis mine
I’m seeing that cynicism is an expression of pain. Cynicism may not be a healthy response to pain, but nonetheless, the wounding is legitimate. And wounds take time and space to heal.
But I noticed in this passage that after Jesus expressed His exasperation, He didn’t sit in cynicism. He went ahead and did the next right thing. He didn’t stop with the hard feeling.
“Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.
Matthew 17:17b-18 (ESV)
While struggling with cynicism, I will try to give my pain to Jesus, take a deep breath, and follow His example by doing the next right thing.
Do you struggle with cynicism? What helps you overcome it? Sometimes taking time away from people to work in my garden or go on a long walk helps me regain perspective.