A Vital Survival Skill

two women walking across the road during sunset

We talked earlier this week about the connection between optimists and love. Perhaps some still feel that optimists are hopeless idealists, walking around with blinders on, because they seem to refuse to see the realities of the world. But, is there something else going on? In our less-than-perfect world, how do optimists even survive?

Turning the tables for a moment, do you know anyone who is a pessimist because they claim that it’s just being “realistic”? They seem to feel that because the world contains murderers and molesters, and because war, famine and injustice are common, it is simpleminded to take an optimistic view.

Now, it may very well be simpleminded to try to live as if the world contained no pain, suffering or injustice. Current events around the world prove that. But remember, the practical optimists of the world rarely lead lives untouched by suffering.

Saint Paul, for example, wrote his remarkable letter about joy to the Philippians while he was in a Roman jail, awaiting, as far as he knew at the time, execution.

Dr. Viktor Frankl, who lived through three years in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, related that the survivors were often not the ones who were physically strongest, but rather those who found reasons to live with integrity in the midst of horror and death. Optimism became a vital survival skill.

You see, to live and breathe pessimism is to deny the possibility of change. Goals are not set, and the vision of solutions disappears. Creativity is tamped down, if not blotted out completely. The fixed mindset becomes just that – fixed, and on the negative. Eventually, the downward spiral toward depression is the only landing pad.

On the other hand, optimism is a choice we make with our eyes wide open. It is a choice that enables us to live with purpose and hope, no matter what the circumstances. When you make that choice, day after day, year after year, you will be standing with St. Paul, Dr. Frankl and so many others on the side of transformation and hope – which is a truly great place to be!