It may be time to embrace cynicism.
Our cultural moment may be calling for it.
Several years ago I was part of a leadership development cohort of young people and on the final day before they sent us back to the places that we came from all over the globe the leader encourage us to stop working on our weaknesses.
It really caught my attention because up to that point I been under the impression that my primary job was to become a well-rounded person and leader into bring up my weakest areas so it would’ve matched everything else. He said “no, put almost all of your energy into you area of strength – the thing that makes you unique only work on your weakness to the degree that it would disqualify you from ministry or cripple your leadership take away your credibility”.
Don’t work on your weakness – put all your energy into your strength – only work on your weakness enough that it does not cripple you or disqualify you from leadership.
I’ve always thought that was an interesting idea and I logged it in the back of my head carrying around all of these years and once in a while I see something and I think this calls for that I was recently out of the news cycle in the political arena for several weeks due to illness and then work stuff and then caring for family and so I was out of the loop and coming back into it has been rough.
It has been really eye-opening and I’ve noticed that when people are cynical or critical that sometimes they have an internal message that the cynical suspicion is something negative to be resisted.
I want to consider today that it might actually be the perfect time to be cynical.
A couple of years ago my friend Tad DeLay wrote a book called “The Cynic and the Fool”and I was in conversation with him around that time. I’ve noticed that it is not healthy to define yourself by what you’re not! There’s no fruit in that. There’s nothing nourishing about defining yourself in contrast to somebody else or some other group
What I am saying is that because of how we participate in our society – especially in the media age (the Society of Spectacle is one of my favorite books) – that we are conditioned, trained, and well-practiced at being cynical. It helps us not be so vulnerable and susceptible to the stunts and lies that are constantly put in front of us.
Embrace the cynicism to the degree that it compels you toward action.
So that’s my encouragement for today that that maybe this isn’t something to be resisted and that maybe it’s entirely appropriate for our moment and that it’s not a negative thing.
Maybe a little cynicism isn’t the worst thing in the world – especially if Zizek is right and the light at the end of the tunnel is another oncoming train.
February 21, 2020 at 7:20 pm
Nice post Bo.
He said “no, put almost all of your energy into your area of strength – the thing that makes you unique. Only work on your weakness to the degree that it would disqualify you from ministry or cripple your leadership take away your credibility”.
I’m not exactly clear on what this above quote has to do with cynicism, but I think it is a very interesting idea. You should flesh it out. I would read a whole book on this topic. If you wrote it.
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February 21, 2020 at 10:28 pm
Oh – thanks for the follow up! Well my thought was “stop putting energy into resisting cynicism – our moment calls for it – and instead put your energy into something that matters”.