Dooley Noted: The Cringe Factor

We all know the inward, sinking feeling that we have come to call cringe in recent years. The slang description describes the embarrassing awkwardness that accompanies social failures that are far too common. On the one hand it is nervous laughter when nothing is funny and on the other it is the deafening silence after a joke falls flat.

We cringe over loud, obnoxious conversations in quiet spaces; over the duck face that people make for selfies; and over drunk fans at sporting events. Bad grammar leaves us gritting our teeth. Inappropriate commercials while the family gathers around a television is an uncomfortable intrusion. Unbridled arrogance invites rolling eyes due to our internal consternation. Whether serious or sympathetic, the more public the offense the greater the cringe.

But when does our recoiling reveal as much about ourselves as the recipients of our ire? One discouraging trend in recent years has been the public shaming of basic, historic Christian beliefs that are as old as Christianity itself. Affirming that explicit faith in Christ alone is the means for genuine salvation is spun as hateful. The notion of a literal hell is often met with ridicule. Speaking about God’s holiness or coming judgment invites the scorn of critics. Pro-life ethics are met with charges of opposing healthcare. Speaking of gender as a biological reality rather than social construct is quickly labeled as hate speech. Insisting that homosexuality is sinful behavior is sure to evoke charges of homophobia. The moment a Christian openly denies the pluralistic, ecumenical tendencies of our misguided world, hostile mockery ensues and cancel culture goes to work.

The cringe of unbelieving detractors, however, is not what troubles me the most. Since the Garden of Eden, humanity has been quick to jettison God’s clear directives (Gen. 3:1-6). Jesus was not only rejected by His contemporaries, but He also predicted the world’s hatred toward those who sincerely follow Him (John 15:18-20). The scorn of the masses is neither surprising nor troubling.

What is disheartening, though, is the cringe of professing believers who are more conditioned by society’s carnality than they realize. Many Christians will secretly complain about the woke lies of our culture, but never dare speak openly about their concerns. Even worse, sometimes Christ followers cringe over the aforementioned realities, and many others, simply because we don’t want to appear uncouth or uncivilized.

Any talk of the narrow road causes discomfort when you really just want to go with the flow (Matt. 7:13-14). Why do we only speak of our faith when we’re certain the cultural mob will celebrate our ideas? Why are we slow to espouse controversial Scriptural admonitions, which are just as clear, but less popular? Why are we so quick to cringe when the same Bible that we say we love invites controversy?

May I suggest that deficiency is not in the message of God’s Word but in our own hearts instead? Though delighting in the law of God is the key to a blessed life, the counsel of sinners influences us more than we care to admit (Psalm 1:1-3). Yet, heeding the teachings of Scripture prevents shame (Psalm 119:6), guides us to faithfulness (Psalm 119:28-29), revives us (Psalm 119:50), and gives us discernment, knowledge, and wisdom (Psalm 119:66, 98) by serving as a lamp to our feet and light to our path (Psalm 119:105). Because the Bible is perfect (Psalm 18:30), we should treasure it in our heart (Psalm 119:11), rejoice over it (Psalm 119:14), love it (Psalm 119:97), and count it as more precious than silver or gold (Psalm 119:72). The words of Scripture, not the misleading notions of the world, lead us to salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). Rather than cringe with embarrassment, we should join the chorus of the faithful whose tongues sing of the Word, knowing that the commandments are righteousness (Psalm 119:172).

Should we speak the truth in love? Of course (Eph. 4:15). Are there times when Scripture and the gospel of Christ will offend? Without a doubt (Matt. 10:32-39). Is there ever a time when we should cease from declaring the whole counsel of God? Never (Acts 20:27). The precepts of the Lord are right (Psalm 19:8) and should, therefore, be lived out and shared in every place every day without blushing. We dare not undermine the profitability of God’s word simply because of the backlash it might bring.

Dr Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.