On Cynicism and Humor

I had a conversation with a friend recently about my propensity towards cynical humor. If there is one thing I tend to be introspective about myself, it’s how my humor expresses itself. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that in every situation I face, I tend to find the funny side of it. I’m the guy who laughs at funerals and giggles at my children’s births. Most of all, I poke fun at people who take themselves and life too seriously.

Now, any personality type can lend itself to sinful extremes. People who are serious all the time can find themselves unable to find a Sabbath rest, while those who are always melancholy over their their sinful state may be unable to find joy in Christ. Those who are angry about the injustices in the world oftentimes can’t enjoy a summer day.

What moral principles guide my attitude in dealing and thinking about others? I looked up the word “cynical” in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, and found the following definition:

having or showing the attitude or temper of a cynic : as a : contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives

b : based on or reflecting a belief that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest

“Contemptuous distrust in human nature”. That’s me. If you read and believe the Bible, you’re forced to conclude that man is inherently sinful and distrustful. The Westminster Confession of Faith describes the cause of this sinful nature, and places the blame fully on the first human, Adam:

By [Adam’s] sin, [Adam and Eve] fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.

I believe that all people are “wholly defiled”, even those who are Christians. Granted, Christians have been redeemed by Christ, and we are in the process of being sanctified, but this side of the judgement, everyone has a varying degree of corruption in them. This understanding leads me to be distrustful of any one’s “human nature”, even those who claim to be redeemed.

I’m working on another article where I look at Presbyterianism as being codified cynicism, that is, a system of government based on the assumption that human nature is corrupt. But more on that later…

So, we’ve established that the world is full of corrupt humans. If that were the end of the story, I wouldn’t be a cynic… I’d be suicidal. But, there is one other truth that keeps by from taking a knife to my wrists… that truth is that a God more powerful than sinful human nature exists, and has a plan for redeeming this world. That means that no matter what sort of terrible things happen in this life, it’s going to have a happy ending.

So, no matter how many of my lawn tools are stolen, or how many times my car breaks down, or how often people in authority heap abuses on my family, I’m a winner in the end. This isn’t fatalism… I still have responsibilities to do what I’m supposed to do. But it does protect me from despair, and allows me to laugh.

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