Hurt, Pain, Cynicism, and Care

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

— Cynicism —

To be honest, it’s something I’ve really struggled with in my life — especially through the last several years.

Do you ever find yourself there too? Expecting the worst out of people, being avoidant of opportunities to form new connections and friendships, and assuming people want to and will hurt you?

A painful experience a few years ago made me think twice about being the open-hearted girl who loved people — I decided I didn’t like how vulnerable that left me, so I was going to make an adjustment. A serious one. The unfortunate thing about this response to a difficult situation was my huge lack of self-awareness; I knew I was hurting, but I didn’t know exactly what I was doing in response. I was shutting my heart down, but all I realized then was that I wanted the pain to stop — I did not realize I was embracing cynicism to accomplish my little safety project.

Last week, I got to go on a family trip that shook up that cynicism. Each morning, my family would go down to breakfast, where we met our waitress Amy (not her real name), who served us many days in a row. Amy was kind, friendly, and open-hearted and made it her mission to be a welcoming presence to us. Amy and I quickly found that we had so much in common — we had both worked in health care, had some nursing education in common, and just seemed to have a common philosophy of the value of family. So we had wonderful conversations.

The last day I saw her and said our goodbyes, it hit me — Amy did not have to be that kind to me. Most servers aren’t that interested in getting to know me. Amy was going above and beyond to listen, care, and find common ground. Why was she so loving? I’m just a random person she’s likely to never see again.

Amy isn’t cynical. When she serves and buses tables, she uses her gift of compassion to care intently for people. As we exchanged stories and experiences of working in health care, it became clear to me that Amy wasn’t nice because she’d never experienced painful challenges. She elaborated on how hard it was when she used to be a nurse in pediatric med surg — the more experienced nurses were often unwelcoming and mean — leading to her seeking out a hospital closet where she could shed a few tears every now and again when her shifts became especially trying. And yet these hard situations seemed to make Amy more loving, more kind, and more compassionate — not cynical.

When I was hurt a few years ago, it left me in the wake of another person’s decisions — I had been impacted and was left aching. When I met Amy, I was impacted and left better off than how she found me. Cynicism lies to us — saying that our painful experiences are bound to be repeated again and again — and so we miss both hard and extremely wonderful friendships because we avoid them altogether. One person can make a sizable impact upon you in very little time. But it doesn’t have to be a negative, painful, or harmful impact — it could be like Amy’s impact. You could know someone over just a few days and make a significant mark of selfless kindness that keeps on touching that person’s life long after you’ve left.

People can hurt you. They can leave a wake of pain long after they’ve departed from your life. But the reverse is also true. People can bless you. They can leave a wake of joy long after you’ve gone your separate ways.

Meeting Amy last week reminded me to love more fiercely, to care more intently, and to reject the lies of cynicism — people can hurt and impact you, but you can also hurt and impact them, which leaves a mighty responsibility that we most often overlook. You can create a wake of compassion that gets passed on when you tyrannically resist the temptations of cynicism. After all, we have a Savior who died for those who spat in His face and made a way for us to enter into a relationship with Him eternally — even after breaking His every command. The Gospel of Luke describes God this way: “The Most High [...] is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (6:35). Are we too? Relationships require risk — you could be hurt, judged or rejected, but would you be willing to reach out anyways — motivated by the boundless love of Jesus?

I want to be less like the cynic I’ve become and be more like Amy.

Care is world-changing, and it points us to the powerful compassion of Jesus, who is merciful to sinners — He loves so intently that He is moved at a heart level.

May God transform us to become people of eager kindness motivated by His example rather than cold cynics who woefully avoid people out of a desire for self-preservation.

We might get hurt in the process, but we’d be in the company of the King of the World if we find ourselves in such an estate.

"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil" (Luke 6:35).

"But to those of you who will listen, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you" (Luke 6:27).

"Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you" (Luke 6:28).

"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36).

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