Optimism, realism and truth — can they be reconciled? If so, how? We’ve heard many philosophical viewpoints about these words from many reputable sources, but what is true and what is not?
Here are a few of the more popular quotes I’ve heard recently.
“The man who says he can and the man who says he can are both right.” Confucious
““A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” (Winston Churchill)
“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” Victor Hugo
“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” Mahatma Ghandi
Where Does Reality Fit into All of This?
If I say the glass is half empty, I’m labeled a pessimist. If I say it’s half-full then I’m labeled an optimist. What is the reality? The glass has 50% water in it and 50% air. The truth is neither optimistic nor pessimistic, it is just what it is — truth. How we view the truth is what determines our optimism or lack of it.
The point of this article is to say that being optimistic or pessimistic doesn’t change the truth of the matter. But it will help to determine how we respond to a given situation. If we are optimistic, we will most often respond in the right way to that situation. If we are pessimistic, we will most often will not. But it’s a fact that even pessimistic people can take the same action and get the same results as an optimist.
Beware of false optimism. A 40 year-old man who has no legal training, has never worked in government and has no name in society may say, “I will run for President and be elected.” may be entirely optimistic, but is he being realistic? I don’t think so. So we see that optimism is independent of realism. Sure, he might be able to achieve that ambition by getting a law degree, getting involved in the government and running a campaign but the likelihood of it is slim, whether he is optimistic or not.
True Optimism Trusts in the Lord
There is plenty of optimism in the Bible, starting with God. God says he will achieve what he has set out to do and nobody and nothing can stop it. He has seen the future and will bring it to pass according to his own divine, unalterable will.
Those who closely aligned themselves with God were optimistic as well. Let’s read a few verses.
Psalms 56:4 In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?
Psalms 71:5 For You are my hope; O Lord GOD, You are my confidence from my youth.
Psalms 91:2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”
Psalms 27:1-3 The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident.
Jeremiah 17:7 ”Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD.
Micah 7:7 But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.
2 Corinthians 3:4-5 Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,
Ephesians 3:12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.
Romans 12:12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,
There are many more that you can find on your own. Do you see the thrust of these verses? It’s not on “I,” it’s on “The Lord.”
Here’s one more:
Phillipians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who infuses me with inner strength.
What ‘all things’ is this talking about? All the things you need to do including those things that God has asked you to do. It doesn’t mean you can move the moon from it’s current location to beyond Mars. That’s must not available because God has rightfully limited our capabilities. If not, the entire universe would have been destroyed by now!
I encourage you to be optimistic but realistic based on the truth of God’s Word. The reconciling factor of these three is God’s Word itself which is The Truth. If you are optimistic about something that is not based on the truth, then your optimism yields nothing but fantasy. However if you believe what God says and act on it, then your optimism will produce the fruit that’s intended.
Let’s have optimism based on truth and then our optimism will also be realism.