“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
A man I know, once vibrant and talented, now lives in a family member’s spare bedroom, drinking beer and playing video games all day. His story is tragic. A series of misfortunes knocked him off his trajectory to success and turned him bitterly cynical. Everything and everyone was to blame for his misfortune. No one could stand being around him. He lost job after job and the woman he’d hoped to marry. His cynicism drove everyone away.
Cynicism can be triggered when we are hurt or angered. It’s a defensive posture we take to protect ourselves emotionally-nothing I do will make a difference, so why try? Cynicism can also keep us from dealing with negative emotions in a healthy way, allowing them to fester, grow and distort our view of ourselves, others and the world.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reminds us of our call to build each other up, to speak words of grace, compassion, and love. This Lent, let us free ourselves from the threat of cynicism by allowing ourselves to the grace toto examine our emotions in a healthy, up-building manner.
Examine: Listen to the cynical messages you have heard or told yourself-angry messages of blame and mistrust. Breathe. Notice thoughts and feelings that arise.
Imagine: Recall a time you expected the worst, a situation you were sure wouldn’t end well. Sit with the painful emotions of doubt, suspicion and mistrust as they arise. Picture these emotions moving through and then out of your body like cloud vapors. Imagine the clouds breaking into tiny bits, angry molecules that catch on the wind and float away. Rest in the release of these emotions. Allow yourself to feel this unburdening.
Pray: Free me from this burden, O God, so I can live with your blessing.