Photo by Jack Rydquist
Are you a romantic or a realist? An optimist or a pessimist?
Most likely, you’re a bit of all of those things. And that’s good—the balance keeps us from spiraling into despair or, alternately, throwing ourselves into wildly unrealistic endeavors. My dad is an optimist, and my mom is a realist, so I have both woven into my psyche. But we each probably sense that our identity is more tied to one side of the spectrum or the other, right?
I lean toward optimism, and for the most part I think it helps me more than it hurts me. Viewing the world through slightly rose-tinted glasses helps me make the best of things. I’m up for seeing what I can make from what I’ve scrounged together in my life—like a collection of odd ingredients found in the far-reaches of the refrigerator. I’m willing to throw myself into something that might not be entirely realistic, motivated by my hope that something wonderful just might result. I know that life can surprise me, and I’m willing to trust that the surprises will lean more toward good than bad.
My attitude isn’t just about me
Lately I’ve been thinking about how our attitudes rub off on others—our kids, spouses, co-workers and community. I view the world in a certain way and I know how that feels from my perspective, but I wonder how it looks from the outside.
One of the things I don’t like about being an optimist is the tendency for positivity to come off as fake. I don’t want to be perceived as someone who isn’t willing to share struggles and call a hard thing hard. I worry that people will assume I’ve come to a rosy conclusion because I’ve failed to really think.
But maybe authenticity isn’t just about openly sharing the tough and the negative, whether it’s giving harsh feedback, spilling negative emotions or expounding on our doubts (the topic of Monday’s post). Somehow it seems like we’ve gotten to a place where to be authentic is to be a downer, and being an optimist is the equivalent of being fake.
How has that happened? And how does it affect our family, community, and culture at large?
Be counter-cultural: Build people up
My pastor has been talking lately about how counter-cultural it is, in this age of polarization and division, to encourage and build one another up. We’re so busy tearing things down in our efforts to promote our beliefs and positions. Just think about politics, and how little we know, anymore, about what a candidate or party is actually for—what they want to do. We know so much more about what they’re against, and what they want to undo. It feels like an incredibly slippery slope. In fact, it’s so slippery that I’m feeling rather pessimistic about it all! Can we change course?
If you’ve spent much time poking around Halfway to Normal, you’ve noticed that I have three categories I use to roughly sort out my posts: Culture, ideas & paradigms; Love, family & community; and Belief, doubt & hope. Not surprisingly, many of my posts could easily fit into two or even all three categories.
This is one of those posts that could go anywhere, but I decided to put it under Love, family & community. I think this is what love is, in a really practical way: Thinking about how we rub off on others, and living out our lives in a way that builds others up. Can you envision how our families and communities would be transformed, if we focused on that?
I can. And I don’t think it’s just my rose colored glasses at work.