Thoughts and Quotes on the Toxic Effect of Cynicism

In policing, it is difficult to resist cynicism but doing so is vital to mental health as well as fair and impartial policing. Some officers are proud of their cynicism. They view it as a badge of experience-won wisdom. Others adorn it as a shield from disappointments and betrayals. Still others think it as a form of cleverness. But cynicism is an occupational hazard, a contagious disease easily caught and hard to shake. Cynicism transforms experience and healthy skepticism into a pernicious prejudice that assumes negative conduct and intentions and damns to failure every effort to make things better. Cynicism is a dark lens that that shapes everything we see and how we feel. It’ can turn caution into fear and make suspicions look like certainties. The cure is not cock-eyed optimism or naive gullibility. The cure is an honest and realistic perspective that acknowledges the existence of bad people and horrible tragedies, but rather than surrendering to despair, it accepts the challenge to be scrupulously fair and, where possible, to make things better.

Here is a collection of quotes on cynicism that might help you ward off its corrosive impact:

  1. On an overnight shift, sometimes all an officer sees is trouble. Something can happen to people of goodwill in that environment. After years of police work, officers sometimes cannot help a certain cynicism creeping into their life. Being shaped by their life experiences. And that can lead to mental shortcuts, to assumptions, all of which can tear us apart. We have to own that truth. – James B. Comey, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
  2. We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs. Kenneth Clark
  3. Cynics can never be truly happy because they believe the worst , expect the worst and interpret every event as confirmation that they were right. – Michael Josephson
  4. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the furthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness: a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say ‘no.’ But saying ‘yes’ begins things. Saying ‘yes’ is how things grow. – Stephen Colbert
  5. There is no power in cynicism. There is no forward thrust in cynicism. Jesse Jackson
  6. Don’t give in to cynicism. It is a toxic spiritual state. Cory Booker
  7. Life is not an easy matter… You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea which raises you above personal misery, above weakness, above all kinds of perfidy and baseness. Leon Trotsky
  8. A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future. Sidney J. Harris
  9. History provides an antidote to cynicism about the past. David Souter
  10. Cynicism stems from disappointment. Cynical and faithless people were not always like that. They were filled with possibilities and hope as kids. But they tried and perhaps failed. – Robin S. Sharma
  11. Cynicism is a form of prejudice. It so favors a negative perspective that it disbelieves stories of noble and honorable conduct and blinds its possessor to reasons for optimism and hope. – Michael Josephson
  12. What we need in medical schools is not to teach empathy, as much as to preserve it – the process of learning huge volumes of information about disease, of learning a specialized language, can ironically make one lose sight of the patient one came to serve; empathy can be replaced by cynicism. – Abraham Verghese. [Can’t this apply to policing?]
  13. No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up. – Lily Tomlin
  14. What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. – Oscar Wilde
  15. Cynicism is not realistic and tough. It’s unrealistic and kind of cowardly because it means you don’t have to try. – Peggy Noonan
  16. I think that the worst form of naivete can be extreme cynicism. If you think that nobody comes to Washington to do any good whatsoever, that is almost as bad as being starry-eyed and thinking that they are all here to advance democracy. – Thomas Mallon
  17. Skepticism is a necessary and vital part of the journalist’s toolkit. But when skepticism becomes cynicism it can close off thought and block the search for truth. – Jeremy Paxman
  18. I think we too often make choices based on the safety of cynicism, and what we’re lead to is a life not fully lived. Cynicism is fear, and it’s worse than fear – it’s active disengagement. – Ken Burns
  19. I don’t think you lead by pessimism and cynicism. I think you lead by optimism and enthusiasm and energy. – Patricia Ireland
  20. Cynicism is the easiest of all reactions, right? But it’s also so disappointing and self-defeating. – Chris Hadfield
  21. Optimism with some experience behind it is much more energizing than plain old experience with a certain degree of cynicism. – Twyla Tharp
  22. Cynicism is intellectual treason. – Norman Cousins
  23. Cynicism is intellectual dandyism. – George Meredith
  24. Cynicism is a curse that darkens our lives and blinds us to all the good in the world, all the things that deserve our gratitude. -Michael Josephson
  25. I hate cynicism – it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Conan O’Brien
  26. The cynicism that you have is not your real soul. Yoko Ono
  27. For me, a really radical position for journalism to take is to stop being cynical. Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre. Joe Klein
  28. Cynicism is a powerful predictor of conduct. According to a 2008 national survey by the Josephson Institute,
  29. people who believe lying and cheating are a necessary part of success are nearly four times as likely to deceive their boss (31% v. 8%), three times more likely to inflate an insurance (6% vs. 2%) or expense claim (13% v. 4%), or lie to a customer (22% vs. 7%). They are also one-and-a half-times more likely to cheat on their taxes (20% vs. 13%). – Michael Josephson
  30. A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin. – H. L. Mencken (1880 – 1956)
  31. Never be a cynic, even a gentle one. Never help out a sneer, even at the devil. – Vachel Lindsay (1879 – 1931)
  32. People who fight fire with fire end up with only the ashes of their own integrity. – Michael Josephson
  33. My pessimism extends to the point of even suspecting the sincerity of the pessimists. – Jean Rostand

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *