I have a confession to make.
I'm the most cynical person I know. I'm a chronic worrier. I have a tendency to expect the worst. I've been in denial about this for a long time (Everyone's allowed a little pessimism, I tell myself, and besides, it's just a part of who I am). But when I found myself sitting on a plane in the middle of a lightning storm, it hit me: it's the choosing to believe the worst about a situation, and not the situation itself, that will destroy you.
I have a deep-seated fear of flying, which reached peak levels during a return trip home to California from Colorado. The plane was preparing for takeoff when the pilot's voice came over the speaker announcing a weather delay: "There's a huge storm above us. We'll be delayed indefinitely. Please be prepared for lightning, hail, and turbulence when we take off."He said all planes would be grounded until the worst of the lightning storm passed. For half an hour, it didn't. For half an hour, I watched as the world outside flared with light, shook with thunder, and hurled rain against the window. I debated getting off the plane. I prayed. I went into full-on panic-attack mode. I allowed my mind to wander into a maze of cynicism that even I was incapable of finding my way out of.
But in the middle of the mess—the one outside my window, and the one in my head—I came to realize something: my understanding is so flawed. My tendency to jump to the negative, to let pessimism and fear cloud my perceptions, creates such a wildly inaccurate understanding of truth. My brain screams, That plane's a death trap. The truth, though, says, That plane's safer than a car. In other situations, my cynicism shouts, You should probably get mad at someone if they hurt you. The truth says, They never meant to. Show grace.
The problem is that it's easy, and a little satisfying, to give into cynicism. If you expect the worst, you're never disappointed. My pessimism is a self-defense mechanism, a way of protecting myself—it's easier to say I knew it than be blindsided. But when we let cynicism color every part of our lives (from friendships, to relationships, to faith, to politics), we're not saving ourselves from anything. We're creating a heavy burden. It doesn't feel good to be a worrier, an over-thinker, someone who prepares for the worst. It accomplishes nothing.
But I'm still learning all this. There's no "off" switch for cynicism and no "on" switch for trust and assurance. When you find yourself in the middle of a lightning storm, and cynicism is screaming, Things are not ok, let the truth yell louder: Things will be ok.