Pointing at What's Wrong or Creating What is Right?

Erik Cooper —  March 3, 2010 — 10 Comments

What’s the difference between a prophet and a cynic? No punchline here.  That’s an honest question.

Last week we talked about Hard Truth, that the truth is offensive and really does hurt sometimes.  But when does hard truth cross the line and become wicked cynicism (you have to say that with your best Boston accent)?  Are they even points on the same continuum?

Cynicism is easy.  It’s not hard to identify corruption in the brokenness of humanity, and being hurt by it isn’t a question of if, but when. Unfortunately, the church isn’t much different.  And our heightened expectations in spiritual environments just adds to the disappointment when the proximity of human interaction shows it’s ugly side.

“…cynicism emerges like an evil alien from some b-rate horror flick.”

Sometimes we take it on the chin and lower our expectations.  Sometimes we might even lose our naivete and learn to rightly speak hard truths.  But far too often we cocoon our disillusionment and begin nurturing a cesspool of anger and resentment.  And cynicism emerges like an evil alien from some b-rate horror flick.

There’s a fundamental difference between a proclaimer of truth and a cynic. Prophetic voices speak hard truths, but they’re God’s truths, spoken in response to His Word and His revelation.  The motive is obedience.  The desired outcome redemption.

Cynics are selfish.  And while their words may carry some nuggets of truth, their motives are self-gratifying.  Self-justifying.  Self-righteous.  Cynicis aren’t seeking restoration, only the euphoria of pointing a finger at other people’s junk. The want to be right, not reconciled.

“Cynicis aren’t seeking restoration, only the euphoria of pointing a finger at other people’s junk.”

The Old Testament prophets agonized, even wept over their words. Cynics embrace theirs with glee, almost as if they desire to spread the pain and disappointment that drives the core of their own existence.

Becoming a cynic is almost natural, the path of least resistance.  Seeing beauty and potential amidst the brokenness of humanity is the tough road. Embracing Christ’s redemption is the challenge, and also our calling.

Some days I’m a cynic.

But what if we made this pact?  Instead of just pointing out what’s wrong, let’s endeavor to create what’s right. Cynicism is just words.  Let’s allow hard truth to become action.

10 responses to Pointing at What's Wrong or Creating What is Right?

  1. I’m so glad this message isn’t “cynical.” 😉 Nice! Let the challenge begin!

  2. My struggle on this is that I feel God’s call to be His prophet but delivering hard truth ain’t always easy. I don’t like to hurt people (usually only feelings are hurt) because I don’t like to be hurt (i.e. do unto others as…). But if I am unable/unwilling to help people to correct what God sees as sin, how can I be of help in getting them to Heaven where God wants them to be in the first place. So I need lots of prayer to get to where He wants me…please pray for me.

    • Loving people doesn’t mean avoiding hard conversations. The challenge for me is making sure the core of my motivation is right. Sometimes I really want to help people. Other times I just want to prove how right I am, make a point, or worse yet, make myself feel better by bringing someone else’s deficiencies into the open. Tough line to walk.

  3. Debbie Calvert March 3, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    The ones called to deliver hard truth, need to keep their heart right and their motivations pure. Agree. Otherwise, we work from the “chip on our shoulder” – not good! Good article, Erik.

  4. This hits me at the core. Because I have perfectionist tendencies in what I’m passionate about, I often end up hurting other people just to somehow hope they’ll get it right next time.

    How do we, in ministry, consistently correct without sounding like a nag or a cynic? That’s my desire.

    • Tough one Dustin. I want to make sure I don’t improperly communicate an assumption we shouldn’t speak the truth. That’s imperative. But truth (in love) tellers long for the best, for redemption, for the realization of God’s desires. Sometimes speaking a hard truth can be the best way to love someone.

      Cynicism is really about the core motivation. Cynics want to make themselves feel better by pointing out faults in others. They don’t want to make things better, they just want to make themselves feel better. We have to keep speaking the truth, even when it hurts. We just need to check our motives (that’s the biggest challenge for me).

  5. Absolutely. Totally agree. Thanks for the comment back Eric!

  6. You’re spot on, Erik, that it’s about core motivation. And something I’m learning as I mellow (older and wiser or kinder and gentler?) is that even when my motivation is correct, how I choose to deliver the truth makes a whole lot of difference. Is it in the context of relationship? Do they know that I genuinely have their best interest in mind? Is my demeanor “arm around their shoulder” or “finger wagging in their face”? Makes a bit of difference in how truth is received.

  7. This is exactly the point I was trying to convey about myself at the coffee shop today! Last year, about this time I had the ‘awakening”. I was visiting my family in Georgia and while speaking with my aunt, it hit me that I was becoming cynical. I have been working on fixing it, and the process of correction is held mostly in healing and letting go. Now, I am at the place of trying to figure out a proper place in ministering to the lost and unsure the practical side of living a committed Christian life. In my community we are so wooed by the signs and miracles that talk of practical application of the Word of God is enough to lull us back to sleep.

    • I appreciate your honesty Devonia. Let’s do our best to create something beautiful and God-honoring, rather than just embracing the hurt and pain that leads to cynicism. We need each other to walk that journey…can’t do it alone.

      Loved meeting with you guys today. Look forward to connecting again soon…your family is beautiful.

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