The Cynic!

(Henry Ward Beecher, "Lectures to Young Men on Various Important Subjects" 1849)

The Cynic is one who never sees a good quality in a man — and never fails to see a bad one. He is the human owl, vigilant in darkness — and blind to light; mousing for vermin — and never seeing noble game. The Cynic puts all human actions into only two classes — openly bad, and secretly bad. To him, all virtue and generosity and unselfishness are merely the appearance of good — but selfish at the bottom. He holds that no man does a good thing, except for profit. The effect of his conversation upon your feelings, is to chill and sear them; to send you away sour and morose. His criticisms and innuendos fall indiscriminately upon every lovely thing, like frost upon flowers.

The live-long day, he will coolly sit with sneering lip, uttering sharp speeches in the quietest manner, and in polished phrase — crucifying every character which is presented. His words are softer than oil — yet are they drawn swords. He indulges himself in flippant sneers; and with supercilious brow, and impudent tongue, wagging to an empty brain — as he deprecates the wise, the long tried, and the venerable.

It is impossible to indulge in such habitual severity of opinion upon our fellow-men — without injuring the tenderness and delicacy of our own feelings. A man will be what his most cherished feelings are. If he encourages a noble generosity — every feeling will be enriched by it. If he nurses bitter and envenomed thoughts — his own spirit will absorb the poison, and he will crawl among men as a burnished adder, whose life is mischief, and whose errand is death.

He who hunts for flowers — will find flowers; and he who loves weeds — will find weeds. Let it be remembered, that no man, who is not himself mortally diseased, will have a relish for disease in others. A swollen wretch, blotched all over with leprosy, may grin hideously at every wart or excrescence upon beauty. A wholesome man will be pained at it, and seek not to notice it. Reject, then, the morbid ambition of the Cynic — or cease to call yourself a man!