Saturday, July 20, 2013

Optimism & Cynicism

I was going through some old things the other night and came across a letter. It was a letter I couldn't bring myself to read again, but in looking at the date at the top and knowing the recipient of the letter... it was a letter that symbolized only one thing to me: betrayal.

The wounds aren't fresh and, ultimately, feel mostly healed...but the sick feeling in my stomach that had existed almost constantly for months on end returned for an instant.

I hesitated, debating on if I should toss the letter with the plethora of other things I was getting rid of or if I should keep it.

I kept it.
I want to remember.

Perhaps it's unhealthy and perhaps I should destroy any evidence that reminds me of the pain I've experienced throughout life, but I don't want to. Perhaps it seems self-destructive.

I'm not ever someone that's quick to push away the negative. I'm probably prone to focus on it too much, I realize. But as much as I'm likely to see the negative, there are also others who only see the good... and I guess I'm not sure that either extreme is the best way to live life. There needs to be a balance, a realism... an optimistic realism that can exist without constant negativity.

Sometimes I think it's easier for us to want to cling to the negative though. It's easier to only hear the negative... and believe the negative, especially when it involves us. I was talking to a girl recently about her relationship and while her boyfriend had said multitudes of kind things to her and about her, all she could receive was the negative.

Isn't that what a lot of us do, though?
In the fifty nice things someone might say to us, we tend to only hear the one point of criticism. And then that point becomes the thing that momentarily defines us, dictates our mood, affects us for days and days. It's the reminder that we aren't perfect. That we aren't doing everything right. Out of all the incredible things that happen to us, all of the things we are blessed with... it becomes easy to focus on the few things that are hard, challenging, and even heartbreaking. Those things quickly become the reason for why our lives are good or bad in a given moment. They are the things that remind us that this world is not perfect and that sometimes bad things happen (oftentimes for no good reason or explanation).

But what if we allowed the points of criticism to move us toward better? What if we allowed the bad things that happen to do the same? What if instead of dwelling on them, feeling sorry for ourselves and throwing the pity party....we either looked for ways to change those things or accepted that 'it is what it is' and moved on? What if we dwelled on the positive and remembered the good?

I think we can dwell on the positive without forgetting the negative, without forgetting the reality that we aren't perfect and that sometimes bad things do happen.
I guess what's why I kept the letter.
While I don't want to exist throughout life afraid to trust and convinced that everyone close to me will betray me, I also don't want to live life naively, either. But, beyond that, I think the letter reminds me of forgiveness. It reminds me of a time in my life where I had to choose death or life. It reminds me that despite the pain, hope prevails. That life goes on. That, this too, shall pass. It reminds me that in time, wounds heal.

And so, while I often feel deeply rooted in cynicism, there's still somehow hope. There's still good. There's still much to be joyful about, thankful for, to laugh about.

I don't know if you're up against something like this right now.... up against something bad that's happened to you, struggling to believe the good things about yourself over the bad (whether someone said something to you or no)... but, I hope that you can press deeply into the good.

That we can be people who are truly joyful despite the opposition that faces us, because we know that we have something to be joyful about. That we can be people who don't suddenly forget all the good in the midst of the bad...and that we can be people who have a healthy perspective (not unrealistic) even in the good.

There's a balance.
Sometimes bad stuff happens... and sometimes it breaks our hearts. Sometimes we aren't perfect...and sometimes it feels absolutely defeating. But it's not hopeless. It's not the end of the world.

There's still so much good.
I pray we don't forget it.

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