My pastors have a tendency to use cheesy church clichés like ‘Instead of investing in gold, you should invest in God’ and I usually roll my eyes when they say things like this. After the last few times this happened, I started to wonder why I react with cynicism to some of these phrases. That question made me realize that I react with cynicism whenever my practical wisdom and God’s truth conflict with each other and that’s a really big problem.
A conflict between practical wisdom and God’s truth makes me uncomfortable so I react with cynicism in order to shove down and cover up the conflict. I see this problem play out in my relationships and how I respond to arguments with friends. When it comes to arguments, my practical approach clashes with God’s truth and I cover up this conflict with cynicism about the other person or relationships in general.
When a friend and disagrees with me or hurts me, I know that I’m supposed to tactfully let them know my side of the disagreement and how their words have affected me. My practical wisdom tells me to do the opposite though. It tells me that I need to win the argument or respond with a slightly hurtful comment of my own.
The conflict and tension between these two approaches can be very difficult to deal with and many times I take the shortcut and react to the relational problem and internal conflict with cynicism.
I tell myself that my friend won’t hear me even if I tactfully explain my side of the story or how they offended me. I also tell myself that they will surely hurt me or disagree with me in some other way down the line so I should just grow a thick skin. When faced with the conflict between my wisdom and God’s truth, cynicism seems like such an attractive rout and I take it far too often.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
Saying the words “When you said this it hurt me because _______” sounds super cheesy and my wisdom constantly tells me cheesy lines and Scripture don’t help anyone hear me or come to a mutual understanding with me. Many times cynicism is my defense mechanism or that I use to just get away from the internal conflict between God’s truth and my wisdom. That’s a problem though because if I never push through that conflict I will never experience the value of God’s truth.
This problem boils down to a lack of trust in God. I generally trust in God and yet I struggle to trust Him when His truth conflicts with my wisdom. Cynicism offers a way to avoid this problem but it also robs me from experiencing the power of God’s truth and gaining a greater trust in Him.
When it comes to arguing with another Christian, it seems really cheesy to quote my pastor or something from Scripture. Doing either of those can be great though because they allow me to see the power of God’s truth. God’s truth can bring peace and harmony in relationships when nothing else can.
When I quote Scripture during an argument or say something cheesy like “I should invest in God instead of investing in gold”, I humble myself. I show that I believe that God’s truth stumps my wisdom. That’s really important because humility will solve a great many arguments or relational problems.
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6
Humility also makes a way for God’s power to work instead of ours. When I say something cheesy or quote Scripture, I trust that God’s and His truth have the power to bring us to a mutual understanding AND I trust that they will bring us to that understanding if God wills it. I give up my control and trust in His understanding of the situation and plan for me.
When I make God and His truth my guiding light in personal conflicts, I make it clear that I’m not putting my comfort or emotions first. That doesn’t mean I leverage God’s truth in order to win a fight or make someone feel guilty, that’s a very clear act of putting myself first. I humble myself to God and do my best to act according to His truth.
The best example of this comes from how I apologize. In our culture, we tend to just say “I’m sorry” instead of actually apologizing and asking forgiveness. That’s not actually an apology though, that’s just an expression of our feelings.
Recently, our pastors challenged us to apologize each time we wrong someone AND ask them for forgiveness. This is literally the most cheesy and awkward practice; sometimes I would rather hit my head against the wall. Every time I do this, my cynicism loves to jump in and tell me that saying anything more than “I’m sorry” is ridiculous or that the other person probably won’t forgive me.
Sometimes, my cynicism wins out and I just say that I’m sorry. I always regret that decision though because I know that true apologies bring so much more peace, healing, and restoration into relationships. Some of my friendships have become stronger just because I offered a true apology for an offense instead of trying to simply smooth things over with an “I’m sorry”.
This is always easier said than done though. All relationships involve hurricanes of emotions that have the power to throw us around in all kinds of directions if we let them. Our practical wisdom tells us that we need to do what feels right, like smoothing over interpersonal conflicts. This practical wisdom seems so obvious at times and our cynicism doesn’t help when it points out that God probably doesn’t understand the difficulty and complexity of our daily lives.
This cynicism will continue to plague us until we make it a habit to choose God’s truth over our practical wisdom. We can’t know the real value and power of God’s truth in our lives until we experience it firsthand. Until we experience it, defense mechanisms will seem like the best option and they will lead us away from following God and His truth.
Cynicism feels like such a natural approach to life and cheesy church clichés feel ridiculous at times. It can be hard to choose the cheesy truth over the attractive cynicism and yet we can’t know the power of God’s truth until we choose it. The only question is when will you start making that choice?
Image Copyright: P.B. Obregonby