Raising Authentic Children in an Age of Cynicism

Posted by Ty Fischer on Sep 30, 2015 4:10:25 AM


Often today, I find older people who are discouraged about the cynicism that they see in young people. I often hear comments like:

  • "Why aren't they more politically engaged?"
  • "Why aren't they more involved at church?"
  • "What is wrong with this generation?"

Now, admittedly, I hang out with some of the best examples of the best students in our culture! The kids at Veritas are my greatest hope for the future (much more than I have hope in the present state of our church or political culture or in its leaders).

Still, at times, I see what older folks are seeing and as a teacher and school administrator, I work to help students set aside the cynicism rife in our culture and act with hope!

Parents want their children to be authentic and hopeful. Parents dread seeing the cynicism of our culture seep into the lives and minds of their children. So, here are three ways in which faithful parents can help their children overcome cynicism.

First, admit that there is a problem and that sometimes the cynicism of our culture might seem justified. The one thing that adults seem to miss is that a cynical reaction to our culture--especially to our political culture--sometimes seems right. This problem has gotten much worse with the advent of 24 hour cable news with voices yelling from the right and left. If you want your children to listen to you, try to understand where they might be coming from. Sometimes the political parties should make us all sick. Sometimes petty squabbles at church can obscure the gospel. Help them to see that this is not just a modern problem--it is a human problem. We fell and we keep falling. Our leaders, even great ones, are broken and sinful leaders who often blow it. This was true of King David; it was true of the Apostle Peter; it was true of Martin Luther; it was true of Thomas Jefferson; it is true of the President today. The question is not: "Can we find evidence enough to cause cynicism?" rather it is: "Is the evidence that can make us cynical all that we should consider?" It is not! Sadly, in our culture, bad news sells and good news is not covered. Help your children see what is going on at the soup kitchen, and on the mission field, and with the family that just adopted an orphan. Show your child; don't tell them. Keep them circulating around people whose authenticity shines through. (Note, this means turning off the TV and technology and going to meet with real people.)

Second, refuse to be cynical about them (particularly when they deserve it!). Parents and grandparents sometimes miss this point: you want your kids to be authentic, but you are cynical about them! What you do, will be a much louder sermon than the one that you preach. If they are cynical, love them, hope in them, encourage them, and see them beneath the sometimes crusty exterior. This can be especially challenging for moms dealing with middle school boys and girls. They can be messy. They can be caustic. They really (deep down) often just lack confidence and need (desperately) someone to love them in spite of themselves. If you are a parent or a grandparent, you are called to be that person who loves them. They will fight you, but have confidence. Tell them you love them, put your arm around them, and go in a direction that encourages. Refuse to be cynical about them and eventually they might give you a hearing about other things.

Finally, consistently practice seeing the world the way God sees it and keep the conversation going. One of the most powerful sentences about cynicism that I have ever read came from Dick Keyes excellent book, Seeing through Cynicism. This is a pretty deep and theological book, but it comes to this incredible point that is an antidote to cynicism for every Christian. Keyes points this out: "God knows everything about you, and He is not cynical about you." Cynicism, you see, projects a negative future based on partial and skewed evidence of sinfulness, hypocrisy, and brokenness. God knows us perfectly. He knows our past, our hearts in the present, and our future--along with all the sins and mistakes that we will commit...and He loves us. He shows us that we can see ourselves, others, and the world in a way that admits that we and the world are broken, but loves through the pain and eventually sees the world as He sees it--broken but being redeemed, sinful but being sanctified.

Topics: Education, Culture, Faith, Family, Politics