When you look out over your herb garden, do you see beautiful brightly colored butterflies flitting around, or does your mind’s eye conjure up green caterpillars on naked parsley stems, their leaves stripped away practically overnight? I have a friend who is overjoyed at the sight of a butterfly. I often have a difficult time sharing her joy.
But I recognize the problem. Pessimism can easily turn to cynicism. We want to rationalize that by calling it “being realistic.” But here’s the difference:
Realism understands that you won’t save everyone (Matt 7:13,14). Cynicism doesn’t even try.
Realism knows that you are unlikely to change the mind of that misled young man in the white shirt and tie who knocked on your door with Bible in hand, but it greets him with kindness and respect. Cynicism views him not as a lost soul, but as an adversary and approaches him with sarcasm and downright hatefulness.
Realism knows that perhaps even a majority of those who ask for help at the meetinghouse door are making prey of good-hearted brethren, but it takes the time to politely ask a few questions and determine an appropriate action just in case. Cynicism immediately tars them all with the same brush and sends them on empty-handed, both physically and spiritually.
Realism is compassion tempered with wisdom. “Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Cynicism is malice fueled by pessimism. It looks for the worst, it expects the worst, and ultimately it rejoices in finding it. That is about as un-Christlike as it comes.
So watch the butterflies today and enjoy them. You can always check for caterpillars in the parsley later, and then rejoice when you only find a few.
[Love} does not rejoice at unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1Cor 13:6-7.