My version of optimism today. A spicy blend of truth and sarcasm.
This post is part of a 31 day series entitled “Think on these things: Learning optimism.” For a full catalog of all the posts — and they’re not all quite this tongue-in-cheek — visit the first page in the series by clicking here.
With so much injustice happening the world-over, how are we to ‘think on’ things that are just?
It’s a four-letter word we use as an adjective, usually to to describe that something is “fitting” or “appropriate.” Some Bible translations render today’s word as “right” or “fair.” Paul urges his hearers to think on things that are just, as a way to guard their minds from anxiety and fear. In Biblical terms, “just” means Read more
It was almost comedic. Our outlook biases are so mismatched.
There we sat in her living room. Stacks of paper sequestered neatly in manilla folders, alongside a laptop and coffee mugs. We met to discuss the Bible study we’ve written and our next steps with it. (I’ll tell you more about the study another time, I promise.)
After plotting a loose project map and timeline, our dialog turned to what might come of this study… how God could use it to reach into hearts of women. I wish you could have heard it. Listen in on some clips of our conversation: Read more
Sometimes the doctor’s call isn’t good news.
I can’t imagine physicians like calling their patients with life-changing diagnoses. A woman I know got such a call yesterday. Cancer. Breast cancer. When I spoke with her today, she shared her news with me very candidly. As I listened and mentally noted what her next steps were, my subconscious began to process what it would be like to receive such news… partly because I just had my annual mammogram on Monday of this week. I have no reason for concern. (But then there’s never reason for concern… until there’s concern. See, I told you I’m a pessimist!) Read more
I didn’t even know this was a thing. Until today.
I started some mental meandering on who the most classic optimist is/was. Pollyanna (from the 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter) is the archetype. But I had no idea that there is a whole “principle” bearing this character’s name. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the Pollyanna Principle (courtesy of the all-knowing Wikipedia): Read more
Theft. Murder. Human Trafficking.
All we have to do is read the daily news headlines to find account after account of dishonorable actions. I find the news utterly demoralizing; I hate to see the many ways mankind can injure, defame, and oppress one another. Depravity and sin seem to run rampant.
In Philippians 4:8, Paul exhorts his readers to think on things that are respectable or honorable. I wonder what the news headlines were in their day. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is an intensely personal letter, one in which he consistently encourages them that though suffering will be part of their lives, great joy can be had in the midst of it. Read more
If a pessimist should learn optimism, then would the converse also hold true? Should the optimist learn pessimism?
Our culture holds the trait of optimism in high regard. We like optimists almost as much as we like extraverts. I suspect most of readers will immediately answer that question with a resounding “no.” If an optimist has no need for learning pessimism, then I contend that my goal — learning optimism — also lacks value. In other words, either both sides of the spectrum should learn to adopt some of the opposite thinking, or neither should.
Here’s why I believe my effort to learn a more positive mental bias is worthwhile: Read more
Can a Christian be a pessimist?
I certainly hope so. Or I’ve got a lot more to be worried about than my general disposition.
Maybe the more important question is whether faith and optimism are synonymous. Do these two words mean the same thing?
Methinks not. I believe they are related, but not the same. I have two lines of reasoning on this:
- I know plenty of optimists who have no belief in Christ whatsoever. Their lens on life is upbeat and sunny, but based on no Christian eschatological or theological view.
- I know plenty of ardent followers of Christ who generally see things in a negative light. The Bible speaks to discouragement, even amongst believers. And perhaps this is one reason God saw fit to send the Holy Spirit to comfort us in His absence?
- At the point of conversion to faith, I observe no broad, correlating change in “outlook bias” from pessimistic to optimistic across the general population. Read more
Few situations reveal my pessimistic nature more than these semi-annual conversations with teachers. How awful does it sound that some of my most negative beliefs occur around my kids? (But then I wonder whether that might be true about a lot of us? Please don’t leave me hangin’ here.) This week was conference week. I dutifully showed up with my notepad and pen, ready to jot down what the teacher wanted to share about my kiddos.
And I fully expect them to share something bad.
My heart is so full of love and affection for these kids. I genuinely delight in them and cannot fathom my life without them. Yet I enter these meetings assuming I’ll be hearing about their worst academic habits and traits. (Do you think it’s safe to conclude, then, that pessimism isn’t related to one’s love for another?) Read more
What things, exactly, does Paul want us to “think on”?
It’s time to define some terms again.
My theme verse for this series is Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. — Philippians 4:8 ASV (emphasis added)
Call me a cynic, but I’m having trouble with that word pure. Read more