The Rise of Pessimism

January 5, 2024


And how we can turn the tide

A psychologist had twin boys—one an optimist; the other a pessimist. On their birthday he loaded the pessimist’s room with toys and games. In the optimist’s room, he dumped a pile of manure. Soon the father found the pessimist surrounded by his gifts, crying. “What’s wrong?” The pessimist sobbed, “I need batteries. My toys will get broken!” In the optimist’s room, the father found his other son dancing for joy around the pile of manure. “Why so happy?” The optimist shouted, “There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

According to recent studies, pessimism is on the rise. And it stinks. A recent study claims that the endless stream of negativity on TV, radio, and our phones is leading to a negative view of the future and for many, a mental health crisis. He says, “A lack of trust in government, a soaring deficit, polarization and inflation, have all combined to put us in a bleaker mood than ever before. I find very little cause for optimism.”

How is your despair meter?

Years ago, Lutheran writer Richard John Neuhaus was being driven from an airport to a speaking engagement. His host persisted in decrying the disintegration of Christian values. Neuhaus finally turned to his host and said, “The times may be bad, but they are the only times we are given. Remember, hope is still a Christian virtue, and despair is a mortal sin.”

Optimism seems an impossible prospect these days…unless we remember the hope we have. A hope that says, “Fear not, the future is as bright as God’s promises.” As others slide into despair, opportunities abound to encourage and comfort and cheer, to shine as lights, to bring hope to others.

A Michigan banker once advised Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in that new car company called Ford. “The horse is here to stay,” he said, “but the automobile is only a novelty.” Reminds me of the Chinese proverb: “Man who say it cannot be done should not interrupt man doing it.”

As people of faith, we are called to hope, not in a car company, but in who God is—a sovereign king who loves us, will never leave us, and will one day bring us home.

Christians who despair forget that God changes lives. He has done it and he’s not finished.

Maybe you say, “It’s not my fault I’m such a pessimist. My blood type is B Negative.” Ha! Well, let’s be positive, shine our light, and make someone’s day. Besides, the optimist may be as wrong as the pessimist, but he is far happier.

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