I’m a pessimist and a cynic through and through.

My knee-jerk reaction whenever something good happens is, “Let’s see how long it lasts.” And I always assume people are acting out of self-interest.

Looking at the story of my life, I can point to the incidents that have caused this slow but steady decline into pessimism and cynicism. To save time, the short story is that I’ve faced disappoint all my life.

Disappointments are inescapable in life, but they seem to be even more painful when they come from the familiar and comforting environment of the church.

A careless word. A glance that stayed for too long. A meeting you weren’t included in. Someone’s unfinished work you must complete instead … Disappointments have a way of racking themselves up very quickly.

“The higher the expectation, the greater the disappointment,” was something my mother often said, whenever I told her about disappointment I experienced in church.

Disappointment is even more distinct when confronted by the true nature of someone you’ve admired. So it’s important to examine what kind of expectations we place on each other in the church.

So should we even have expectations of each other?

I believe it’s natural for us to have expectations of each other – they exist whether spoken of or not. The thing is, like everyone I serve with in church, I am imperfect and I’m just as likely to be disappointed as I am to disappoint someone. We need grace, and we need to give each other grace when we don’t meet fair expectations.

The Church is called to be a place of dwelling for the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22) yet she is made up of individuals who inevitably struggle and fall – who will hurt those around them at some point. So for there to be real authenticity in the church, we need real love and grace.

Instead of waiting to be disappointed, it’s far wiser to wait to dispense grace from God – in all situations.

When we wilfully remain cynical about the church, we scorn the transformational hope that Jesus Christ offers to us and our spiritual communities.

A heart that only expects disappointment isn’t one that will get closer to God.

The other thing that’s been on my mind is this: While I want to present the best, possible version of myself to everyone – how much of that is authentically me?

It’s more productive to think of authenticity in the terms of Ephesians 4:23-24, putting off the old self to put on the new self in Christ Jesus.

Authenticity is, as such, both a public and private acknowledgement of brokenness while recognising His grace and righteousness – the “new self” we have the privilege of putting on.

When we are not authentic in church, we are only seeking the approval of men and not God. And a heart that seeks the approval of men reflects the fear of rejection.

When we remain cynical about the church, we scorn the transformational hope that Jesus Christ offers to us and our spiritual communities.

If God is our God, then we work for the pleasure of One and not the approval of man.

God delights in us and calls us His chosen people who are dearly loved by Him (Colossians 3:12). He cares for us closely (Isaiah 40:11) and knows us fully (Psalm 139:1).

He knows best how easily we become dissatisfied in life and how consumed with appearances we are – yet He still loves us and wants to conform us to His likeness, for His glory.

The Christian must deal with every shred of cynicism in his heart. And if we can’t acknowledge our own brokenness, then we are not looking at ourselves through the same lens the Lord does – forget even looking at others in that higher way.

So we do not strive for approval. We strive to be more and more like Him.

For such a Christian, showered in the torrents of God’s grace, he will find no more room for worldly pessimism and cynicism.