1. Cynicism sneers at whatever appears genuinely noble or heroic. It belittles what is great and dismisses what is beautiful. This may present itself as a sarcastic remark, a flippant joke, a quick change of conversation, or just a sardonic smile. This may start as an occasional reaction, or perhaps something to fit in to the mood of the conversation, but if continued there is a risk that we lose the ability to even perceive or appreciate the good.
2. Cynicism shrugs in a resigned, or even dismissive, way at whatever seems evil, or just terrible. Disaster zone reports are met with a yawn, holocaust movies provoke off-colour jokes. Victims of crime 'probably had it coming'. This may start as a coping mechanism, but if pursued has a numbing effect on the heart which prevents us from seeing evil as evil, and kills off the ability to empathise with another's pain.
3. Cynicism believes that anything that looks good is too good to be true. There's no such thing as a free lunch. They must want something from me in return. What am I missing here? Pretty soon, no gift can be appreciated as anything more than a transaction which I must repay to keep face.
4. Cynicism doesn't believe in change. I can't change, you can't change. We'll just have to live with ourselves and the world as it is.
5. Cynicism won't argue. If what you say sounds smart, you're a smart-alec. If it sounds dumb, I'm smarter than you, so why should I listen? Sarcasm rather than truth-seeking characterises the cynic's conversation.
6. Cynicism can't dream. The imaginative faculties have been stifled. If I can't see it with my own eyes, I won't believe it. Even then, I might not.
7. Cynicism doesn't pray. Whether because of fatalism or atheism, the cynic is unable to envisage a world in which any higher power could change circumstances. If the cynic does pray, accidentally, in a moment of weakness, they are quickly able to explain away any apparent answer.
1. Cut yourself off from sources of scorn. For me, that's meant stopping watching various TV programmes, especially current affairs quiz shows. No more Mock the Week, possibly no more Have I Got News For You. It is impossible to sit in the seat of scoffers and not become a scoffer.
2. Re-stock the imagination with beautiful images. I've been re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia, and reminding myself of what a child-like enthusiasm for the world looks like. This morning, at the end of The Last Battle, I cried with joy as Aslan led his people out of the Shadowlands, and higher up and further in to the Real World. Of course, it helps that this is true - by which I mean Christian - imagery, but there is truth all over the place, not just in the Christian imagination.
3. Pray anyway. Enjoy doing it, even if you can't quite believe right now that it is achieving anything. Who said achieving stuff was so important anyway?
4. Cry in films. This has always been an easy one for me. Feel it. Don't protect yourself. I recommend Up as a recent film which caused me to cry like a girl (no offence, girls).
5. Spend some time day-dreaming. Wonder about what the future might hold. Don't spend all day on it, but take some time. And throw in some outrageous dreams. Why not? Anything could happen.
I wrote something similar before. You can find it here.