Burnout Faith journey Resources

Curing Cynicism: caring too much

growing up with a twinkle in my eye - how curiosity cures cynicism

I don’t consider myself a cynic – I’m too young and too optimistic for that to be true.

But lately I’ve noticed myself tuning out in discussions I once was passionate about, becoming dismissive about causes or efforts I once supported and walking away from conversations that I used to think mattered.

When did I stop caring, I wonder.  And is that wisdom or is that cynicism?

I’ve long been a fan of Carey Nieuwhof, and as a survivor of burnout, have often gone to his blog and podcast for wisdom and hope.  There’s something inspiring about someone’s who’s been there, speaks openly about burnout, gets it, and is living proof that recovery is possible.  I love that.

When he came out with a book that touched on burnout, “Didn’t See It Coming,” I put myself on the waiting list at the library, read the entire thing, loved it so much I went out and bought a copy for myself and read it all again. I never do that.

I consider my own lack of passion in things that used to matter, and am reminded of Carey’s words: “Cynicism begins not because you don’t care, but because you do care.”

“Cynicism begins not because you don’t care, but because you do care.”

Carey nieuwhof
"Didn't See it Coming" by Carey Neiuwhof, a book that changed how I think about cynicism and gave me courage in my burnout recovery.

Here’s the other part of Nieuwhof’s writing I appreciate: it’s practical and often uncommon wisdom.

Like, this:

The Cure for Cynicism

The cure to cynicism?  Curiousity.

Really?  That’s not self-evident.

He talks about how polarized we get as we age – you can probably name delightful grannies with a twinkle in their eye, and you can probably think of grouchy old geezers for whom nothing goes right… but there’s not a whole lot of in-between.  

I laughed out loud at his descriptions – are you even allowed to say that? – and at the same time knew exactly what he was referring to!   I always assumed if I want to be that happy granny, I need to practice being happy.  He disagrees – he figures I need to practice curiousity:  believing in possibilities, inquisitiveness, being a life-long learner. Curiosity fosters hope.

I’m so enamoured by this idea.  I don’t really consider myself cynical, but I’m realizing I’ve got my areas of life where I’m completely cynical.  It’s not because you don’t care, Carey writes, it’s because you care too much.

I’ve never thought about it that way, but it’s given me food for thought.  I think it’s true – the things I’m most cynical about are the very same things I once poured my life into.  Maybe I didn’t stop caring – maybe I just got hurt one too many times and willed myself to write it all off.  If that’s the case, is the antidote really to stop caring?  Or is it something else?

I think I always thought the antidote was to will yourself into optimism – isn’t that what “hope” is?  But Neiuhof’s got me thinking: optimism without foundation isn’t really hope.  But curiousity?  Could that go deeper? 

I can’t make myself be happy, but I can make myself ask questions.  I can’t will myself to get over something, but I can will myself to think “what if”?  Curiousity can be developed.  It can be fostered.  It can be nurtured and grown.

And if he’s right, and curiousity overcomes cynicism, then here’s one adult who just might grow up to have a twinkle in her eye.

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

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