Pessimism & Optimism vs. Reality

There was a family with two boys. One was an extreme pessimist. The other was an extreme optimist. The parents didn’t like their extreme attitudes, so they tried a gift-giving experiment at Christmas to try and correct them.

They thought that if they gave the pessimist a gift that was so over-the-moon awesome, he would simply have to be happy. They gave him the latest iPhone. But he just frowned: ‘Dumb thing is probably gonna break.’

Next was the gift for the optimistic boy. He was always so happy about everything that they wanted to get him something so bad that he would simply have to feel sour about. That way, he would learn a valuable lesson about disappointment.

He opened his gift, only to find a pile of manure. It stunk up the whole room! But instead of a frown, a huge smile came across his face. ‘Why are you happy?’ his parents asked, ‘You got manure!’ ‘I know, I know,’ he said excitedly, ‘that means there has to be a pony around here somewhere!’*

Talk about optimism!

Both boys had unhelpful perspectives: one so negative that it was out-of-touch with reality, and the other so positive that it was out-of-touch with reality.

How often do we do the same? We think the sky is falling when it isn’t. Or we put our hope in the wrong things which lead to disappointment.

The antidote to naïve optimism and sky-is-falling pessimism is reality.

In 2 Corinthians 4:16 Paul reminds us about our reality: “we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” Though we live in frail bodies in a sin-soaked world, we are being renewed on a daily basis by the power of God. In the very next verse he writes, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Life is tough. God is good. He is with you. Forever.

Do you let naïve optimism or sky-is-falling pessimism take over your brain? The antidote to naïve optimism and sky-is-falling pessimism is reality.

Life is tough. God is good. He is with you. Forever.

By Matthew Ruttan

–Bible quotes are from the NIV.
–*A version of this story is told in: Tony Campolo, Let Me Tell You A Story: Life Lessons from Unexpected Places and Unlikely People (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), 201.

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