Cynicism is an incredibly tempting belief system. It gives you the freedom to dismiss any and all other groups that you don’t agree with by simply assuming that they’re all driven by selfish motives. It lets you ridicule and disapprove of anyone who has the gall to work towards a better world, instead of joining in with them to help. It’s an easy path to a feeling of superiority that’s based on absolutely nothing.
And we all have a weakness for cynicism. It’s a part of our human nature, and it takes effort to resist it. You have to choose to invest people with the trust that they will try to do their best, even when you are faced with an example of their worst.
And it isn’t a one-time fight. What I’ve realized, and what I think a lot of my peers are discovering as well, is that you’ll face the lure of cynicism at every new stage of your civic engagement. From spectator, to new recruit, to seasoned veteran, and eventually to leader, you’re repeatedly challenged by the small number of people setting a bad example for everyone else.
Eventually, you have to accept that there are always going to be people acting against the common good in any given scenario, but you cannot use this as an excuse to give up on the rest of us. Instead of allowing the selfish to steal away your passion and commitment, you have to focus on the wonderful and caring people around you, and give them the same support that they’re giving you.