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Celebration or Cynicism

Have you ever wondered why certain people can celebrate their way through the most difficult circumstances while others passively revolt, with cynical murmurings? One is active, taking initiative against despair, while the other is passive, letting life just roll over them.

Could it be that these polar opposites are two mindsets, two different views people live out of . . . One celebrates while the other murmurs.

Let’s talk about the cynic first:

In philosophy, a cynic is a person who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions. They down play any real good in the world. If good happens, they dismiss it like some UFO sighting.

The cynic growls their way through life, never confronting themselves, and like a dog with an old bone, nurses a secret bitterness.

When I say passive I mean that we allow the circumstances of life dictate our emotional, mental, and spiritual responses to the point that we do anything that makes us feel better. We don’t really face our fears, but numb ourselves with whatever opiate works for us. The dulling medication is often the voice of cynicism.

The cynical mindset bemoans life as something that just tragically happens, seeing itself as the victim, even places the blame on others.

It is a dangerous thing to live in a cynical state of mind because you become the instrument acted upon instead of the one acting. When a person becomes the object, they become the victim, entrenched in self-centered focus that perpetuates a hopeless cycle. They see everything happening to them as a hopeless tragedy that compounds their already impossible life.

But then there is the option of Celebration. Celebration takes life and adapts it, integrates and finds the one jewel within the maelstrom of chaos. Celebration doesn't ignore troubles, but in faith, looks for God's hand in the middle of it.

As Abraham Heschel puts it, celebration is confrontational.  Celebration is an active posture that keeps you from self-pity and dwelling on your feelings. Celebration causes you to face any ordeal in the light instead of hiding in the shadow. Celebration is much harder to achieve than cynicism because it takes courage to see the solemnity of the moment and seize it.

These two mindsets are not just psychological ideas, but spiritual stances that will determine the kind of person we will become.

The prodigal’s older brother was incapable of celebrating his long lost brother’s return because he was cynical. He could not see beyond his own self-centered  feelings that good can emerge from bad situations.

But notice Pau’s stance. In the face horrific circumstances, he was able to say unreservedly, "In all these things we are more than conquerors".