You’re NOT a Critical Thinker. You’re Cynical.

I’ve seen it with Tracy and I. We eat, breathe, and sleep ministry. We love it. We love Jesus. We love people. We love the church. It consumes so much of our lives. We’re not complaining or counting hours in a week we work. It’s an honor to get to do what we do, but I’ve seen subtle cynicism creep up at times in my thoughts and in her language. Cynicism is defined as: An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others.

It’s probably a bit more overt with Tracy (ha ha). God has given her a GREAT deal of discernment. She’s light years ahead of me in that area. It’s probably why she is so good at discipling people and cutting through the fog and phoniness that people project. When you combine that gift with her ‘tell it as it’ personality you can get quite a dose of truth (whether you want it or not).

I love taking things that are good and making them great. I’m a maximizer. Tom Wrath, wrote a splendid book entitled “Strengthfinder” which helps to assess and discover the strengths and talents that you have. You have to take an online assessment from Gallup to discover your top five strengths. Here is what the book says about maximizers:

Excellence, not average, is your measure. Taking something from below average to slightly above average takes a great deal of effort and in your opinion is not very rewarding. Transforming something strong into something superb takes just as much effort but is much more thrilling…And having found this strength, you feel compelled to nurture it, refine it, and stretch it toward excellence…This natural sorting of strengths means that others see you as discriminating. 

Strengthfinder

Spot on. The maximizer in me fills my head with constructive insights. I’m constantly trying to tweak and cultivate things to make them exquisite. Problem is I’m quick to point out what’s wrong. Not just in systems and processes, but in people. That can lead to discrimination. When you add this natural disposition of thought with my wife’s uncanny ability to peer through people’s soul you tend to produce good and bad things. The good? Trace and I are able to reflect on what we’ve done wrong and critically think on how to fix things. The bad? cynicism and negativity arises.

It’s hard when you try to help people and they refuse to change. You can get cynical and calloused. We had a good conversation about this last night. We just don’t want to be people who are always pointing out what’s wrong and never celebrating the good that’s happening. It’s subtle, but left unchecked it can pervade many areas in your life.

Relevant magazine posted a great article yesterday, “The Most Damaging Attitude in Our Churches” the theme centered around how subtle cynicism doesn’t look like Jesus. Here are a couple of points they suggested to readers to curb this attitude.

1. The Church is the Bride of Christ and deserves our respect: Do you find yourself always pointing out whats wrong with the church or with a ministry? Are you quick to criticize a leader for not doing enough or what you like?

2. Reject anything that resembles an “us” versus “them” mentality. 

3. Focus on what is good: In the four short chapters of Philippians, Paul instructs the Church to rejoice 15 times.

Identifying problems can be easy, especially if you’re analytically inclined. Constructive insight and criticism is good and needed in the Body of Christ. I just think we have to be watchful and make sure we’re not spending all our time bemoaning what’s wrong in our church. I know Tracy and I have to be careful. Her discernment is off the charts, but it’s easy for her to see what is wrong with folks and zero in on that. I have to stop obsessing over things that need to be changed to achieve greatness and focus on the good that is happening. Let’s not let cynicism take hold of our lives.

I’m Harold Dorrell Briscoe. Thanks for reading.

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