Maybe it’s just me, but I think when you’re a writer, half the time you write things that you yourself desperately need to hear (if that is actually just me, awkward). In this particular case it’s absolutely true– I wrote this to myself, and I really needed to hear it today.
But here’s the thing: I wrote it four years ago yesterday. Isn’t it funny how history repeats itself?
If you’re stuck in a dark place or feeling hopeless, I pray this serves as a reminder that joy is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Being the hands and feet of Jesus in terrible circumstances is a choice.
Let’s never forget the gift of choice.
OPTIMISM IS A CHOICE
(first published here on March 7, 2012)
Optimism is not a personality trait. It is a choice. And disappointment is not a crippling injury. It is a stepping-stone.
For a long time, I believed that pessimism was something uncontrollable that is ingrained into a person. I thought it could not be reversed because it was simply a part of their being. But in reality, one’s reaction to everyday situations is a direct indication of their character.
In the event of disappointment, the things that run through your head and flow out of your mouth are not a result of your genes, your upbringing, or the situation. Your reaction to disappointment depends solely upon YOU.
Although we may not admit it to ourselves, our hearts most often want to choose negativity. We desire attention, and often that desire fuels a self-piteous reaction when we’re faced with something that doesn’t go our way. We want others to see how miserable we are because we have the ridiculous notion that spreading our misery to others will somehow make us feel better. But in fact, in our complaining, we only make ourselves more miserable and place burdens on those around us as well. When we allow negativity to overtake our thoughts, actions, and speech, we are essentially encouraging those around us to do the same.
If our hearts choose to hope, however, the ideas flowing through our minds and out of our mouths will inspire others to have hope as well. By being optimistic, we can prove to ourselves and to others that it is entirely possible to experience disappointment and heartbreak without allowing it to crush our spirit and hinder our motivations.
Does that mean we can’t be upset? No. Being optimistic doesn’t necessarily mean never shedding a tear. It does mean, however, that we must control every thought we have and force it to be bent toward hope, not toward despair.
Does that mean we can never let on if we’re upset? Do we have to hold it all inside ourselves? No. Friends exist to lend a listening ear, but we must be careful to be listeners as well, and not always speakers. Instead of wallowing endlessly in our current sorrows, we must learn to focus on how we will change our situation in the future. Instead of constantly bombarding friends with complaints disguised with claims such as, “I need your advice” or “I just need to vent,” we must learn to tell our dear friends about our disappointments while never losing sight of hope for a better situation in the future. If we wallow endlessly in our current sorrows instead of trying to discern how we will change our situation and choose to constantly bombard others with our struggles, we’re giving in to the very mindset that will be our own demise. We’re giving in to pessimism.
Is it easy to remain optimistic through every situation that comes our way? No, it’s not. But does anything worth accomplishing ever get done without an enormous amount of work and unshakeable determination?
I am determined to make a positive impact upon those around me, and in doing so, I know that I must remain optimistic through whatever may come.
Until I reach my goals and dreams, I will be patient and not let disappointment take hold of me. I will not let failure define my outlook. I will not let heartbreak crush me.
I will not be ruined.
“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5