Cynicism and the Weight of its Rusty Armor

I was perusing my news feeds recently when I stumbled upon yet another article in the seemingly endless stream of news about government corruption and corporate power. A decade ago I would have read that article with growing horror. I would have shaken my fists in rage. I would have vowed to fight such corruption and evil until my last breath.

I would have cared.

This day, however, my first thought was, “I’m not surprised.” Followed by, “Whatever. It’s just how the game is played. You know that.” Then I shrugged and cocooned myself in the self-indulgent warmth of my cynicism.

I guess I wasn’t always aware of my growing bitterness. It turns out I can be deeply cynical but still fight for the things I care about. Viewing the world through a lens of cynicism, however, has had an incredibly negative effect on me. I feel like I’ve been losing sight of my original goals: to fight for causes I believe in and to help people. More often than not, I’ve been fighting to beat the “bad guy.” Maybe the the difference is negligible when viewed from the outside – I was still litigating important cases and having an impact – but, inside, I was sliding to a darker and darker place. I no longer felt like I was creating something for myself or others. I was just fighting and feeling bitter about it, and there’s nothing empowering or uplifting about engaging in battles from such a place. It’s deeply negative and ultimately soul crushing.

I’ve been using cynicism as armor against feeling too personally hurt and disappointed by repeatedly losing fights to politics and bullshit. It’s also offered me an easy out when I feel unable to rise to the challenge after being beaten down yet again. “Oh, there’s nothing I can do. The system is so broken. Why try?” The down side to this protection is that the armor also keeps me at a distance from the things that I care about. It muffles my heart and muzzles my voice.

I’m tired of being so negative. Being cynical is a choice so I am deciding right now to stop being that way. Sure, I can be realistic about the impact of politics, greed, corporate power and all that bullshit, but I don’t have to be so bitter about it. I want to make things personal again and rediscover the belief that I really can make a difference and help people. I want to build, teach, learn, and create positive changes. I understand that these are vague goals, but I can start by taking off this armor and letting myself really care again.

Originally posted on my blog:

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