…or is it only pessimists who have the monopoly on realism? A good friend recently said that it was only pessimists who claimed to be realists; meaning that pessimists don’t like acknowledge they’re pessimists, they like to say they are realists, as if to justify themselves.
I happen to agree. Recently I have come up against this in my Job as a pastor, not in the local church here in town but when I meet with other pastors from the city and around the state. And nine times out of ten these so called realists are older and more experienced than my self. The question I have is this: Is it only the young and inexperienced that are unrealistically optimistic while the older more experienced are realistically pessimistic; what happened to realistic optimism?
Often talking with these older more experienced realists I get the sense that they are laughing at my optimism, I get the feeling they think I am being unrealistically optimistic. Whenever we discuss the dreams and visions for the future, often with a focus on the local and global church, I get the feeling these older realists are thinking to themselves, “he’ll change when he’s older and has more experience.” The thing is I don’t want to change. I believe I am realistically optimistic. And what is more I believe I have every reason to be.
Now my worldly experience is lacking and I’ll be the first to admit that, I’m only 27. Having said that, I have had some experience in the real world, and enough of it to do away with the naive optimism that come from youthful inexperience. I have spend two years in Malawi, one of the world’s poorest nations. I got to witness the realness of life in this country; death and disease, oppression and marginalization. This was very real and very raw and yet this experience didn’t turn me into a pessimist, in fact it had the opposite effect.
My wife and I are going back to Africa; not because of our pessimism but because of our realistic optimism. We are going back to Africa because we believe things can get better. I pastor a Church because I believe that people can grow in their love of God and their love of others.
Now I want to clarify the difference between unrealistic optimism and realistic optimism. Unrealistic optimism as I understand it is an optimism devoid of reality. If before putting my hand on a hotplate I optimistically think to myself that I won’t burn my hand then I am being ridiculous. However for me realistic optimism is synonymous with faith. Faith and realistic optimism go hand in hand. The author of the book of Hebrews had this to say about faith: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Heb 11:1 NIV)
For me, I want to define realistic optimism the same, it’s that “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Why do anything if you don’t believe your hope in the future will one day become a reality?
Does this resonate with you, what has been your experience? I would love to know, so collect your thoughts and start writing below. Join the discussion.
Next week we continue to explore this topic by looking at the things that help me remain realistically optimistic.