Friday, May 13, 2011

This Post Will Never Work

 Hope is not one of my stronger virtues.

I'm a pessimist, you see. Added to my perfectionism, it can be rather paralyzing at times.

As everyone knows, pessimists enjoy being pessimists because we are constantly in a win-win situation. We  suspect the worst will happen in any given situation. If the worst happens, we have the satisfaction of being right. If it doesn't, we have the joy of having things turn out well. Hedging our bets we live in the safe and cozy, though shallow and dim, world of doubt.

Almost three weeks ago I planted 72 green bean seeds. I know, because I counted them. The package said they should germinate within 5-14 days.

On day 2 I began declaring, "They'll never come up. I'm a failure as a gardener." I repeated this melancholic mutter each day as I went out to check their (lack of) progress.

My husband, the eternal optimist, would cheerfully and consistently respond, "Just wait, you'll see. They'll be fine."

Unconvinced, I would pout and shake my head, "I have a black thumb."

This morning, after 21 days of waiting, I went out and counted 71 beautiful spring green bean sprouts.


But I've deprived myself the joy of hope these last three weeks. Yes, I am happy now that they are up, but I wasted three weeks' opportunity for hope, trust, peace, patience, and joy... and we're only talking about green beans!

It has made me seriously reflect: is being a pessimist really a win-win?

Consider this...

With optimism:

(beans don't come up) three weeks hope + 1 day sadness = 21 days happiness.
(beans come up) three weeks hope + 1 day happiness = 22 days happiness.

With pessimism:

(beans don't come up) three weeks doubt + 1 day vindication = 1 day bitter joy.
(beans come up) three weeks doubt + 1 day surprise joy = 1 day surprise joy.

I'm no math major, but there appears to be a lot more happiness on the side of the optimist.

Being an optimist requires vulnerability. Your hope just might be in vain. You might be crushed. You could be setting yourself up for failure. But to live without bitterness, doubt, frumpiness? It just might be worth the risk.
There's one more seed that hasn't come up yet...

... it's probably a dud.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Do you think it's possible to change from one to the other? Would you want to?


Jennie said...

Plan for the worst; hope for the best.  That's my motto, which my dad says makes me a realist, but whatever it is, it definitely leans toward the side of optimism.  :-)

Farmer's City Wife said...

Best of both worlds :)

Masha said...

Absolute optimist..assume the best until something goes Terribly Wrong, and then assume it will either fix itself with time (like my check engine light that goes on and off at will) or can be fixed without too much trouble. If it proves to be something that is actually A Lot of trouble to fix, I can generally convince myself that it could have been worse, and "really, it's better this way." Unrealistic, really, except that it generally works out for me. I'm lucky I guess..super lucky. :)
As far as changing, I've tried - pessimism seemed so attractive in the despairing, cynical, "I dress in black and spend Way Too Much time in coffeehouses" sort of way when I was in high-school. But it wouldn't take. I tried very hard too, when I remembered to, and when I wasn't so Very excited about some good thing. But I think it'd be easier to change to optimism - especially when you have such a Beautiful life, and so many little happinesses. Aren't seeds popping up one of the most refreshing sights?
~Masha said...

Well, I'm not as optimistic as my mom, nor as pessimistic as my dad, so I guess I'm somewhere in between. I tend to be more pessimistic toward myself and more optimistic toward others, though.

Whichever way we naturally lean, I do believe we can change our habitual thought patterns by challenging our netagive thoughts and telling ourselves the truth. "...We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2COR 10:5). When I started paying attention to my thought life and intentionally choosing  to fix my thoughts on lovely things (see PHIL 4:8) instead of negative things, it really changed my life, because it changed my attitude.

Optimism has the audacity to hope--and hope does not disappoint! (see ROM 5:5). See, when you hope, you implicitly trust that God is going to work everything out for the best, one way or another. You know God the Father just LOVES it when his little ones trust him! When we let go of anxiety (or our security blanket/defense mechanism of pessimism), pray for what we need, and be thankful for what we have, God has room to fill us with that peace that passes all understanding and guard our minds and hearts in Christ Jesus (see PHIL 4:6-7).

I still struggle with pessimism at times, but I am "practicing" the virtue of hope and it really is freeing!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Yes, the garden coming up is definitely an incredible sight -- and it never gets old!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Pessimistic towards yourself and optimistic toward others? That's kind of how I feel sometimes. I'm much harder on myself than others... (but others might not think so ;)).

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