21 January 2009

a confession of cynicism

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye” (Mt 7:1-5).

I find these words of Jesus especially appropriate for me. As I watched Barack Obama’s inaugural speech yesterday, and then noticed the many varied reactions to it, I felt almost like I was looking into a mirror. What I mean is that it’s easy to notice a cynical attitude when people make derogatory comments about the guy I voted for. I can self-righteously say that they haven’t even given Obama a chance, while his predecessor did one bad thing after another. But cynicism and mockery are hardly endearing qualities.

Cynicism is easy. It’s easy to find fault with others, especially those in leadership positions. (As a church pastor, I’ve had a tiny, meager bit of experience at leadership!) It’s easy to criticize while not offering anything constructive. Still, I myself must confess to cynicism on a too regular basis when making observations about politicians whose words and deeds I find offensive. As President Obama noted in his address, “What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them—that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”

He speaks specifically of the political arena, but it also applies to who we are as persons. It applies to what kind of persons we want to be.

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