Choose Not to Be a Pessimist
One More Year of Choices
By Barbara Dahlgren
Last time, we explored the dangers of negative thinking. Those who entertain negative thoughts long enough become pessimists. Pessimists see the worst aspect of everything. They look on the dark side of life. Think of Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend Eeyore. He’s an old, gray stuffed donkey who is always gloomy and depressed. A conversation with Eeyore could go something like this:
“Hi Eeyore! What a beautiful, glorious day! The sun is shining. The birds are singing! It’s great to be alive.”
Eeyore might respond with, “Well…I don’t know. The sun is shining now, but it will probably rain. I think the birds are out of tune. I’m alive now, but I’ll probably die later today.”
We’ve all known people like that. What a joy to be around! They light up a room by leaving it.
The opposite of being a pessimist is being an optimist. Optimists are hopeful and want to find the pony in the manure. They look on the bright side of life. Think of a young Pollyanna who used to play the “Glad Game.” No matter how bad things were, she always found something to be glad about. A conversation with her could go something like this:
“Hey Pollyanna! I just broke my leg. What do I have to be glad about?”
Cheerful Pollyanna might say, “Well…you can be glad you only broke one leg.”
To be honest, both extremes get on my nerves. But with that said, I’ll take the optimist ten to one over a pessimist.
To the pessimist, a fireplace is a source of smoke and ashes. To an optimist, it is a center of warmth and beauty. A pessimist curses the darkness. An optimist lights a candle. The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. When confronted with Goliath-sized problems, the pessimist says, “He’s too big to hit.” The optimist says, “He’s too big to miss.” How we think determines our outlook on life.
Remember the story of the twelve spies who were sent to survey Canaan? (Numbers 13) God told Moses to send twelve men to spy out the land He had promised the Israelites. They were to survey the land and see what it was like. Was it fertile or barren, full of forests or open fields? Were the people strong or weak, few or many? Were the cities strongholds or camps?
So they went to do their duty. They even brought back some fruit of the land – figs, pomegranates, and grapes. When they returned, everyone gathered together to hear their report. Joshua and Caleb said the land flowed with milk and honey. There were a few problems but nothing they couldn’t handle with God’s help.
The other ten spies basically said, “Are you out of your mind? You are crazy. We can’t take these people. They are stronger and bigger than us. They are like giants and we are like grasshoppers.”
Now, all twelve had seen the same land and people. The difference had to be in their perspective. The ten spies with the pessimistic report could only see obstacles. They felt inadequate and didn’t want to tackle it. Joshua and Caleb looked at the task ahead and knew nothing was too difficult for their God to handle. After all, had God not brought them out of Egypt and parted the Red Sea?
Consider this… Those who don’t look to God will tend to be more pessimistic, dissatisfied, and feel lacking. Those who truly trust and believe God will tend to be more optimistic.
We all have obstacles and problems in our paths at times. They can come from our families, our workplace, our friends, and our own hearts. The pessimist will see trouble. The optimist will see God.
Suggestions for practicing this choice…
Remember this rhyme: Two men looked out of prison bars; one saw mud and the other saw stars.
During the day, think about the good qualities of your family, friends, and co-workers, not the things that drive you crazy.
Focus on solutions, not problems.
Ask God to change your outlook so you will be a more positive person. Not just for your sake, but for all those around you, too.
At the end of the day, be glad and thankful for what you got done, not sad and despondent about what you didn’t get done.