Saturday, October 25, 2014

I Choose to Be an Optimist

For years, I've struggled with pessimism.  I call it realism, as many other pessimists do, but that's wrong.  Being pessimistic about everything is not being realistic.  Call it what you want, but pessimism is the absence of hope.  Most people doesn't seem to define it like that.  They say it's just "being prepared for the worst" or "not getting your hopes up" but it's much, much for than that.  It's much deeper than that.

The Webster dictionary has many different definitions for pessimism.  None of them are very positive, but one stuck out to me: "Pessimism: the doctrine that evil overbalances happiness in life."  In simpler terms, it the mindset that there is more bad in the world than good.  The idea that everything is going to be awful, and nothing is going to go your way.  Negativity.  Hopelessness.  It isn't Christ-like.  Not at all.  God has called us to be a light in the world, to shine despite the darkness around us.

I've lied to myself about it for years.  I've made pessimism out to be better than it actually is.  I've made so many excuses about it, saying that it's how I am, and that I can't change.  However, pessimism is a sin.  And sin is always a choice.  Certainly, it's easier to sin.  Likewise, it's easier to be pessimistic than optimistic.  But it is a choice.

I've let myself get away with it, even more so lately.  I'm not even talking about the way I'll be hard on myself, although, that is uncalled for as well.  No, I'm talking about the way I choose (yes, I said choose - it IS a choice) to see a situation.

God broke me today.  I've been holding on for a long time, but today was my breaking point.

It started with an eight mile run this morning with my mom.  After two miles, I said I couldn't do it.  I complained the rest of the way.  Said I was too sore, that I couldn't breathe.  And although, yes, I greatly struggle when running, it was my choice to see the negative.  And when my mom called me out on it, I made excuses about why I was like that. "I'm just a pessimist, it's how I am!" "I hate that I'm like this, but it's not my choice!" "I've tried to change, but I can't!"  Lie. Lie. Lie.  Thus, my run was miserable, because I ruined it with my pessimistic attitude.

Moving on to later.  I was talking with my boyfriend, possibly one of the greatest encouragers in the world, and as the conversation progressed, I realized that I had nothing positive to say.  I spoke negatively about a situation that's coming up that I'm dreading.  I spoke terribly of myself, and wouldn't listen to a word he said.  I fell into one of the darkest places I've ever been.

This resulted in a breakdown of sorts.  But it helped, in a way - I felt utterly broken.  Sometimes God has to bring us to that point to get through to us.  And well, it worked.  I pulled out my Bible and read for a while.  Talked to him for a while.  I realized that I have been so lost lately.  I haven't trusted.  I haven't had hope.

Even more so lately, I have fallen into the trap that is pessimism, and it needs to stop.

I realized why I'm like this, also.  Certainly, I don't enjoy being negative!  I hate it.  But I do it out of fear.  In my mind, if I prepare myself for the worst, when it happens, it makes it easier to swallow, because I was expecting it anyway.  Sure, it may save me from some hurt, but it's an awful way to live.  In preparing myself for the worst, it ended up that all I would ever see would be the worst.  I would walk into a situation, telling myself "this isn't going to go how you would like it go," so that I wouldn't be let down.

I am afraid of dashed hopes.  So I "protect" myself from them, by never hoping.  But that is not helping me at all.  It is robbing myself of one of the greatest gifts that God gave mankind - hope.  The ability to dream and wish and pray.  Not to always think of the worst, but to hope for better.  By being a pessimist, I have robbed myself of that joy.  And that ends now.

I suppose the verse that most stuck out to me today was Isaiah 41:10. (I would greatly recommend reading Isaiah 40-42, such words of encouragement that really pulled me out of a dark place today.)  And this verse in particular says. "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand."  I should not be afraid of the worst.  I should look to the future with hope, and trust that God will give me the strength to encounter whatever difficulties come my way.  There is no need to be a pessimist.

I am making the choice.  Today, I choose to be an optimist, and that is a choice I will continue to make for the rest of my life.  I am tired of how I am.  I am tired of the negativity.  I am tired of not knowing hope.  So I am making this commitment, between God and myself, to change.  Because I can change.

And it is a change I am more than willing to make.

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