There is nothing as frustrating in life as trying to inspire a cynic.
You approach them all bubbly and warm, full of laughter and promise. Your voice is loud and soulful but no matter how hard you try, it gradually sinks into your coconut, that it is too little, too late to save them.
Too much water has passed under the bridge. Many people have broken their hearts. Friends and lovers have deserted them. They’ve lost much money. They’ve lost dignity. All because they were once “foolish” enough to trust. They read William Shakespeare’s “The nearer in blood, the nearer bloody”, or the Akan proverb “The insect that stings you is the one in your cloth” and they nod their heads fully in agreement. They see a young couple who are all over each other and they sneer secretly at their ignorant bliss.
But no matter how many reasons we find to justify a cynical, pessimistic, gloomy outlook on life, the truth is, we only become cynical when we refuse to look at the whole picture. We zoom in too tight to the darker parts of the canvas but there is more to the stories of our lives. Can we zoom out a bit more? Dust off your wide angle lens and look again.
True, we will always have the terrorists among us. They are often family. Friends. Business associates. Colleagues. Leaders. Pastors. Counsellors. Teachers. Terrorists are rarely strangers. They are often this calm breeze we’ve come to trust. We take off our shirts and bare our hearts out to them; and just when we start getting comfortable, out of the blue, they blow out our candles and the flame in our eyes dies; and all we see is darkness. Not every mad person you see on the street was a drug addict. Actually many of them are victims of terror. They are the jilted. The gossiped-about. The black sheep in a family of white elephants. The shamed. The ashamed. The unwanted. The accused. The raped. The lied-about. The scape goat. The misunderstood. You. Me.
No matter what hits us or who betrays us, we get to make a second choice. We can choose to shut down or speed up. The worst thing we can do to ourselves is get stuck. If they weren’t good enough in your past, they aren’t good enough for your future. The surgical knife cuts deep, but sometimes, it is the only way to healing. Face the truth of their unworthiness and move on. Admit your role in the crisis but self-pity won’t change the situation. You don’t need to “end it all”. Move on quickly. As long as you weep, your vision will be blurred. Dry your tears so you can see afresh. The world is full of miracles. You can make it. Can’t you feel the sunshine warming your skin already? Cough out your last lump of tears and get ready for a brand new song.
There will always be terrorists among us. But even more importantly, there is always a second chance. So please start dating again. Juliet is not Rosemary. They are two different women. Sammy and Peter don’t have the same mum. In Akan, we say “just because your child drowned doesn’t mean you have to stop drinking water”. Don’t only learn from your bad experiences. Learn from your positive experiences too. The only way to overcome terror is to unbar your gates and step into the streets again. If they can get you too scared to try again, they’ve succeeded. Don’t let them win. You can win.