Skepticism and Cynicism; What’s the Difference?

Rene Descartes quoted “Doubt is the origin of wisdom.” Part of the way that we learn and grow is to ask questions. Sometimes that comes in the form of doubting what we have been taught to believe or challenging the status quo if it doesn’t feel right to us. Other times, if something feels too good to be true, we may doubt its validity. This type of doubt is defined as skepticism – a process in which we suspend judgement so as to be able to gather information and make an objective response. When we are skeptical about something, a healthy response is to question it; to be curious as to its validity.

Cynicism on the other hand tends to be fueled by bitterness and is generally created by an experience in which we felt jaded or scorned. It is doubt gone astray. When we are skeptical about something, we feel open to possibility. When we are cynical about something, we close ourselves to potentiality.

We are much better served to check in with ourselves when feeling doubtful. Does it have elements of mistrust, or is it seeped in it? Do we feel anger with the doubt? An undercurrent of resentment? If we do, it is best to start exploring how we grew to become cynical about that topic so as to bring us to a place of understanding and acceptance – moving then towards the ability to doubt in order to increase our knowledge and our wisdom.

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