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Right words lead to right ideas

One of the key lessons in many journalism schools is to always be skeptical but never cynical.

I was reminded of this recently when reading about politics and other things going on in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere in the world. This approach may help make for strong journalists but I think it is a pretty good principle to follow for private citizens and the American public as a whole.

It may sound like just a semantical difference but it really isn’t.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, skeptical is “an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object; 2. a : the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain; b: the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt.”

Cynical is a “contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives; b: based on or reflecting a belief that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest.”

That is a big difference, especially when it comes to evaluating government efficiency and the effectiveness of our elected officials.

Nothing is wrong with being skeptical of what is going on around us and how our government operates on our behalf. Suspending judgement until all the evidence and information is available is simply prudent behavior. But cynics look at everything from the perspective that the glass is half empty … and likely filled with poison.

Two other definitions that seem to be confused from time to time, more on concept than on the actual words themselves, are accountability and negativity.

Accountability, especially when any associated criticism is given constructively, is a very positive thing. It holds individuals personally responsible and is the key part of the ability to improve and grow.

Negativity, on the other hand, is the idea that someone can never see the good in anything. Unfortunately, there are far too many people like this.

But the difference can be a fine line to walk. Government leaders and politicians seem to see everything as the latter and nothing as the former. Anyone who disagrees with their opinion is being negative.

That shouldn’t be how our country works. It shouldn’t be how Columbus works and it shouldn’t be how Lawrence County works.

As each of us works to become engaged in our community and be a part of its revitalization, understanding and applying these words and the principles behind them could be a vital component to generating the right ideas and the right thought processes.

Overall, we need to ensure we are spending our time focusing on strategies for success instead of thinking up excuses for failure.

 

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by email at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCaldwell_IT.