Avoiding Cynicism

anthologyToday was the first day of the Integration Capstone course. We read the first eight chapters of the book Psychology & Christianity Integration. It is a collection of the most influential articles that have had an impact on the Christian integration movement. I was thinking of it in these terms: Which articles would I want to make sure students read before they left the program? There are some real gems here. But I’ll write about some of those at another time.

One thing that I found important was the concept of simplicity. Most people I know who go to a Christian integration program have a fairly straightforward faith. There’s a simplicity to it. Then they study psychology for five years, and what seemed simple becomes increasingly complex. In some ways, it should become more complex. We all continue to learn and grow. But there is also a simplicity on the other side of complexity. (Someone said this, and I don’t know who it was to give them proper credit, but I should be clear that it isn’t original with me.) I think it is important to recognize this and not to leave people to just sit with the complexity, particularly if that leads to cynicism. One of my favorite professors in my program once told me that cynicism is the death of spiritual maturity. I didn’t understand what she meant at the time, but I have a much better sense for it today. 

There is a risk of becoming cynical in the study of psychology. Cynicism includes the idea that we do not trust the motives of others, that we can become jaded. This can affect how we think about and experience a host of our most important relationships, including our relationships with clients, colleagues, students, family members, neighbors, fellow believers in the church, and God. 

So we do well to train students to become psychologists while retaining the truth of their Christian convictions and what originally inspired them to want to study psychology from a Christian perspective. We can recognize and model elements of faith that is vibrant on the other side of the complexity seen in the study of psychology. We can also show them what it means to take rists, to trust others, to study the character of God, and take other steps that can offset the tendency toward cynicism.

This is actually an element of what has been referred to as personal integration. It involves attending to the spiritual life of the psychologist (or the student in training to become a psychologist). In many respects, it lays the foundation for the other kinds of integration, including worldview, theoretical, applied, and role integration.

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