Home Pastors Articles for Pastors How to Handle the Cynics and Pessimists in Your Life

How to Handle the Cynics and Pessimists in Your Life


Ah yes…so you’ve noticed the push-pull in their post.

Wait…you’re dealing with critics by criticizing them? How beautifully ironic and hypocritical.

Well, yes and no.

You can get all cynical about the cynics and travel deep down that wormhole, but I’m not sure anyone wins in that scenario.

That’s NOT what I’m trying to do.

On the other hand, you can also pretend every voice should have equal weight. Just be open and don’t differentiate between the different voices you hear and the sources they come from.

The problem with that is that it’s a recipe for inertia. When you have five conflicting voices (several of them negative), what do you do? Well, then you do nothing because everything grinds to a halt. So that’s no good.

If you always listen to negative voices, you’ll accomplish nothing.

However (and this is a big ‘however’), the more you hear negative voices around you, and the longer you lead, the more easy it is to become cynical yourself.

If you’re not careful, responding to the cynics around you can deepen the cynic within you.

There’s a part of me that’s always tempted to reply to the cynics with an even deeper cynicism. See point #1. (You should see what goes through my head some days that never makes it past my lips or onto the keyboard. It can get dark.)

It’s so easy to get dragged down into a mind-set that’s just negative about negativity, but nobody ever wins in that space.

So what’s the point in all of this? The point is this: Become discerning about who you’re hearing from…discerning enough to when to listen and revise, and when to listen and just move on.

And while you’re doing that, fight the cynic inside you. Every. Single. Day.

Return to hope again and again. Keep trusting, Keep believing. Keep making progress.


An incredibly effective antidote to cynicism is curiosity. Yes, simple curiosity.

One thing I’ve noticed again and again is this reality: Curious people are never cynical, and cynical people are never curious.

Think for a minute about the wonderfully curious people you know: a friend, a former teacher, a neighbor or an uncle. You’ll quickly realize that the curious are always interested, always hopeful, and always open to new possibilities. Some grandparents are infinitely interested in their children and grandchildren, asking questions, discovering new things together, embracing the changing possibilities of a new world.

Some older people have more joy for tomorrow than they did decades earlier and become cheerleaders for hope in their communities, families and congregations.

So if you want to foster hope and bring about a much better future, stay curious.

Feed your curiosity, and it grows. Starve it, and…


Ever wonder what your cynicism level is?

Take this free cynicism quiz and find out.


If you want practical help, my new book Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That Nobody Expects and Everyone Experiences tackles the seven core issues that take people out: cynicism, compromise, disconnectedness, irrelevance, pride, burnout and the emptiness of success, and provides strategies on how to combat each.

I wrote the book because no 18-year-old sets out to be cynical, jaded and disconnected by age 35. Yet it happens all the time.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here’s what top leaders are saying about Didn’t See It Coming:

“Seriously, this may be the most important book you read this year.” Jud Wilhite, Lead Pastor, Central Church

“Powerful, personal and highly readable. ” Brian Houston, Global Senior Pastor, Hillsong

“Whatever challenge you’re facing, whatever obstacle you’re hoping to overcome, whatever future you dream or imagine, there is something powerful for you here.” Andy Stanley, Founder, North Point Ministries

“Uncommonly perceptive and generous… You have to read this book.” Ann Voskamp, NYT bestselling author

“Masterful.” Reggie Joiner, CEO Orange

“Deep biblical insight, straightforward truth and practical wisdom to help you grow.” Craig Groeschel, Pastor and NYT bestselling author

“This book is sure to help you.” Daniel H. Pink, NYT bestselling author

Over the years, one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about being a public speaker is having opportunities to hang out with Carey… It’s not a matter of if you’ll run into these challenges; it’s a matter of when. Be prepared by spending a little time with a leader who has already been there.” Jon Acuff, NYT best-selling author

“Nieuwhof’s book provides expert guidance…with an accuracy that pierces the heart.”Nancy Duarte, CEO Duarte Inc.

“A refreshingly transparent guide for all leaders in a wide variety of industries.” Bryan Miles, Co-Founder and CEO, BELAY

You can learn more and get your copy of Didn’t See It Coming here.


What’s helping you navigate cynicism and pessimism?

This article originally appeared here.

Previous articleHarmful CA AB 2119 Approves Gender Transition for Foster Kids
Next articleThe Perils of Preaching an Implications-Free Gospel
Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.