PESSIMIST, OPTIMIST OR SOMETHING ELSE?
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
It seems that people are either pessimists or optimists and each grates against the other. It can be a silent war as each group polarizes the other and tries to hang out with those who think like them. It never occurred to me until the other day that both perspectives are fraught with deception.
The optimist says, “Things may be difficult but I’m choosing to focus only on the good.” They are the ones to assure you that everything will be fine; that they’re not worried about the future. And, they are the first ones to pat you on the shoulder and remind you, when you are hurting, that there is little to cry about. “We’re on the victory side, after all.” They are not usually good with those in prolonged crisis because their unwillingness to bear anothers burden (beyond a day or two) becomes a stumbling block in the relationship.
The pessimist says, “Things are difficult and, most likely, life will never be fine again.” They focus on the worse case scenarios and are rarely willing to see hope. They get lost in the pain and have no perspective about God’s promises. They crave others compassion, as they should, but when they don’t get enough, they become angry and withdrawn. They do believe in the hope of heaven but propose that one just has to suffer and grit things out until they get there. When posed with potential bad news, they will assume the worst. They are prophets of doom who live to see self-fulfilling prophecies.
Both live in deception. For one, life is all good. For the other, life is all bad. Either bent is harmful as Jesus calls us to live in truth and neither does. Is there a third option? Yes, to suffer as Jesus suffered. Having the mind of Christ is the goal for each of us as our bent toward optimism or pessimism tugs to skew the truth.
What does the outlook of Jesus’ disciple look like?
- “Things are really painful and I’m not afraid to feel the impact of that deeply. I can feel anger and I can grieve when I’m face with loss.”
- “Things may or may not resolve in my lifetime. If they do, I will give praise to God. If they don’t, I will ask God for the grace to suffer as Jesus did, to glorify Him with my life.”
- “Life has many seasons. There are good times and I can be happy without apology and celebrate life. I can also be sad and show the depths of my struggle. Jesus did.”
- “God’s promises are true, even in my tears.”
- “God’s love is constant, even when He afflicts.”
I want to be like Jesus to those who suffer around me. I will validate their pain, allow them to fully express it, but I won’t sing a happy song in the midst of their tears. I will ask God for the right time to pray His promises over their life. For those stuck in pessimism, I will not admonish with a sermon. For those stuck in optimism, I will give them permission to embrace their pain. I will ask questions that nudge them toward reality. To both, I will be a compassionate truth teller.
Father, change my thinking, by the power of Your Word and Your Spirit, until I have the mind of Christ in all things. Amen