Thursday, February 13, 2014

curing my cynicism

A few of you know me as coach and as a side note, I love that title. As a separate side note, I have been coaching for so long now, I have former players who now have kids…that should scare me but instead it inspires me further. Over the past 25 years, I have seen a lot of funny things on the pitch. On one occasion, a little boy, who was one of my defenders, came running up to me and whispered, “Can you call a time out? I have to poop.” Nothing really prepares you for such a question. I have checked every coaches manual out there and there is nothing I can find in printed form that warns you that a question like that is coming.

For the first ten years or so that I was a coach, I remember both the joy of winning and the bitterness of losing. I use the word bitterness because for a long time, I struggled with the concept of losing and would typically find a truck load of excuses for why my team didn’t perform as they should have. We were too slow, they were too fast, our goalie was a piece of Swiss cheese, their goalie was a gymnast with Velcro gloves, their goal was bigger than ours, their uniforms were cooler, their coach had a stacked team, our kids all suffered from ADD, the ref was a blind bum, the ref was the other coach’s brother and so on and so on. After each loss, I would pile up my excuses and before long I became something else; cynical. I began to distrust other people’s ambitions, agendas and before long, I believed that the only person I could count on was me. I became selfish of my time and jealous of the victories we didn’t get. Then, after each victory I would remind myself that the reason for our success was because I had made all the right moves and simply outcoached the other side. This made me terribly prideful for a while. Selfish, bitter and prideful; yup, that was me. I was a cynic.

Cynicism is when you squint because you’re not so sure you believe what you just heard because you don’t trust the person speaking. It’s when you don’t think your team can win because too many of the OTHER players won’t try as hard as you. It’s when you become suspicious of nearly everything around you because things just don’t seem to go your way. A cynic won’t attend church because the people inside are too judgmental. On the flip side, a person that attends church every Sunday but looks at everyone on the outside with distrust; is a cynic. A cynic is someone who will literally pull themselves away from helping others because they truly believe that nothing good will come of it. A cynic’s actions always say, ‘my will, my way, nobody else knows what they’re doing anyway.’

OK, I think that everyone can agree that cancer is bad, right? Well, cynicism is a cancer and if you let it fester, it will quite literally destroy you, so to speak, as far as you relate to the world around you. You will pull yourself away from helping others because they’ll never appreciate it anyway. You’ll stop saying nice things to anyone because people don’t really show proper appreciation in your eyes. You’ll quit going to church because the truth is, churches are full of hypocrites!

In the end, you will lose your saltiness. Can you imagine Goldfish crackers without saltiness? The snack that smiles back with no salt? Me neither, no thanks.

In Matthew 5:13 (NIV), Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot”. I’m pretty sure no one here wants to be used by ODOT for traction during snow storms, just sayin. James takes cynicism on like no one else, in my humble opinion, and gives us some fairly straight forward words. James 3:13-17 (NLT) 13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kinds of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic (really?!). 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. Amen?

There is simply no room for pride, bitterness or selfishness in that last verse. Pride, bitterness and selfishness are all the roots of cynicism and they are all cancers.

Most likely, each of us has been guilty of cynicism on some level. No, this does not mean you have cancer. It simply means that sometimes our behavior, the way we act towards others, is prideful, bitter and selfish (the definitions of cynicism). At the very heart of cynicism lies the statement, ‘let my will be done’. And yet even Jesus, our greatest example, cried out to His heavenly father. In Mark 14:36, Jesus said ‘…I want your will to be done, not mine’.

Let me share with you a few lines from a Casting Crowns song:
“Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth, would care to know my name, would care to feel my hurt?”
“Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin, would look on me with love and watch me rise again?”
Someone please tell me how it is we have earned God’s grace.
Let’s add another line to this song:
Who am I, that the man I drive behind, is completely and utterly blind, and doesn’t deserve your grace?

A cynical person does not truly grasp those questions. A cynic withholds love but God doesn’t, even when we don’t deserve it. A cynic says, ‘they don’t deserve grace’. At what point did we stop seeing God’s people around us and start believing that we are so much better than everyone else? Were you given grace and told you were the only one to get it? Do you even deserve it? I know I certainly don’t.
The song continues to say:
“Not because of who I am, but because of what you've done. Not because of what I've done, but because of who you are.”

Reflecting on what cynicism is and what it does, we know that it has the power to destroy us if we let it, much like a cancer. In the world today, we do not have a cure for cancer. However, there is a cure for cynicism.

The cure is grace.

There will be times in this life when you need to call a timeout because well…someone needs to poop. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to take a timeout if you feel your own attitude has become prideful, bitter or selfish (poopy). In that moment, repent. Your coach, your heavenly Father, will instruct you with mercy, He will correct you with love and He will cover you with grace.

Pray this with me:
Dear heavenly Father: I need you. Today I slipped again, please forgive me. Sometimes I forget about your mercy and your love and especially your grace. And sometimes I don’t give out your grace like I should. Jesus, please shower me with your grace again so that I can give it out in abundance, as you have given it to me. Dear Lord, I want your will to be done, not mine. Amen.

As you go throughout your day, shower those around you with grace, regardless of anything. You might not think they deserve it, but remember; you didn’t deserve it either.

May God’s grace be with each of you. Thank you.

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