What if… life has made me cynical?

Posted: November 10, 2010 by Haelie in What About...

The other day when I was listening to Lee Strobel on the radio, he said something that struck a nerve with me.

When describing three different types of people who choose to not believe in God, one of them was very familiar to me.

The cynical nurse.

The nurse he described was cynical for many life reasons beyond her career.  Those reasons are something with which we can all easily relate.  Relationships gone bad – repeatedly.  Being let down by those you once looked up to and respected.  Loss of many kinds, whether by physical death or various other types of separation.  So many reasons to be cynical and hardened by life.

Then there’s the nurse part.

That’s what struck me most.

You see, I am a nurse.  And, for many years, I was the cynical nurse.  I knew and still know many other cynical nurses.

Why do we caregivers often share that common trait?

Yes, the various life struggles and disappointments I previously mentioned do play into our commonalities—but what makes us, as nurses, share in the overwhelming cynicism?

Our job.

I know, caring for others seems so glorious and rewarding and ooey gooey with warm fuzzy feelings of doing good…from the outsider’s perspective, at least.

Imagine—it is the night shift in the ICU (the 3rd of 7 in a row) and you have one patient who is teetering on the brink of literal death all night long and requires untold amounts of energy, attention, and awareness from you – physically, mentally, emotionally…all of you.  AND, you have another patient to care for who is just hitting that magic hour of “delirium tremens” (a.k.a. “DT’s”) in which their alcohol withdrawal symptoms have become extremely severe to the point of uncontrollable mental status changes as well as serious physical manifestations.  The latter patient, when you are able to break away from the other’s bedside and come and care for him, is physically and verbally lashing out at you – the caregiver – the one who is doing everything within your power to help keep him safe and alive.  In addition to all of this stressful patient care, which is your top priority, you also have to make sure to document thoroughly, accurately, and in a timely manner everything you are doing throughout your shift as you care for these patients. After all, you never know when someone or their family may come back and name you and/or the hospital in a lawsuit regarding the time that this patient was under your care in the hospital.

There are many other factors I could describe to you that play into this whole patient care thing, but I think you are getting the idea.

By the end of the shift, and definitely by the end of the seven shifts in a row, you are at your wit’s end – exhausted beyond comprehension…physically, mentally, and emotionally.  This is not what you signed up for.  This is not what your caring, sympathetic heart was feeling led to do.  At this point, just knowing your patients both survived through the night – and you did, too – is quite a relief.

Then, the mind games kick in…

“I should have done that better.”  “Did I forget to check that lab value on the DT patient while my other patient was being resuscitated?”  “If I had only thought to do ____, my patient may not have almost died tonight.”

And on, and on, and on it goes.

And so goes the formation of layers of cynicism in the life of a nurse.

We somehow let ourselves, as caregivers and healthcare providers, take on the feelings of ultimate responsibility of a patient’s life and death.  True, much of that can lie in our hands in certain situations.  BUT, we can so easily get swooped up into the whirlwind of thinking that our patient’s life is something we are ultimately in control of and responsible for and at fault for if their life is harmed or even ends on our watch.

Yes, I know we do need to realize and not take lightly the important role we play in the life of a patient.  Trust me, as a whole, we do.  This is why we struggle with sleeping and caring for ourselves like we know we should.  We worry.  We fret.  We then, to cope, begin to harden and become more and more cynical.  It’s what we do.

Mind you, I am speaking for myself and many others, though I know I do not speak for all nurses and healthcare professionals.

So, my point with all of this?

Well, as a new nurse I went down this cynical road.  It was a very tough one.  It just so happens that I was also deliberately running away from God during this time as well.  Denying everything I knew to be true about Him – The Truth.  Trusting in what I saw in front of me daily at work – death, addiction, child abuse, negligence, self-destruction, cancer, disease, and those who thought they could just dial in the perfect recipe and fix all of those people’s problems and ailments.

The sand kept washing out from under me.  I was always struggling just to remain standing.  I had no solid foundation beneath my feet.  No matter what I told myself, I knew my God was not who I was trying to make Him out to be.  I knew He had never changed, but that I was the one who had changed.  I knew I had no power to help these people and literally save their life on my own.  I knew that I did not have the energy, strength, knowledge, nor endurance to do this job of a nurse day in and day out and survive unscathed.  I knew that I could not do this alone.  I knew that His ways are higher than mine and any patient’s or doctor’s.

I knew all of these things deep down.  But I chose instead to cover up these things I knew with layers and layers of cynicism and doubt in my God, my Father, my Daddy.  The One who all along was holding His arms out to me saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

It was only when I did just that – came to Him with my burdens and trusted in Him alone – only then did I find rest and freedom.

The life of self-reliance only leads to burden and bondage and guilt and helplessness.

His yoke – trusting in Him alone – is the only way to true rest and peace and freedom.

When you do finally decide to give up the struggle against what you feel tugging in your heart from His Spirit, you too will know a life of freedom and life like you have never before experienced.  I did not say a life of ease and without difficulty…but even the difficult times will be different because the well of His Living Water will be springing up inside you, refueling you all along the way with an unending supply of His Eternal Life.

In that day you will say:“I will praise you, LORD.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.

Isaiah 12:1-3

*Scripture from www.biblegateway.com

  1. Annie says:

    Wow this speaks to me so much! For someone who is just starting to realise their connection with good after many years of being “cynical” this is really quite powerful! Thank you!

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