I was a jerk.
Seriously. I was cynical & negative. I was a pessimist. In fact, I still think of myself as a recovering pessimist. My wife deserves a trip to Disneyland as compensation for dealing with my pessimism.
But, a few years ago I wanted to change. I wanted to be the kind of person other people wanted to be around. Not the kind of person people can’t wait to get away from. I’ve wanted to change for a long time. But desire in and of itself wasn’t enough.
So, I set out on a journey. I just decided that I was going to become a more positive person. I made the choice.
“Really?” I can hear the cynic retort, “You just decided?”
Well, yeah. That’s what I did. I made a new year’s resolution in January of 2017 that I was going to be a more positive person. And ever since that moment, I’ve been more positive.
Well, maybe not exactly. I guess that’s kind of true. But the truth is, it’s been a challenge. It’s been a struggle. It’s taken a lot of effort. It’s taken a lot of discipline. It’s taken the formation of new habits and the refusal of old ones.
I wish I could tell you that I had just prayed and asked God to make me more positive (something I prayed for years) and it happened magically. But, it didn’t happen that way.
In fact, when it comes to any kind of change, that’s just not how God works. God does not work in a way that takes away our agency. God does not force His will on our lives. God will empower us to act His way, but he will not overpower us. If that was how God worked, he wouldn’t have given us free will.
Whilst I have made progress, neither have I arrived at any kind of final destination. Yes I said whilst. It sounded more fun and positive. But, I have grown, I have learned. And what I have learned I want to share with you.
I am not an expert. I do not have a degree is positivity. I am not perfectly positive all day every day or even over the course of a week. But I have learned, I have grown. And there are some things I know.
One of those being this: It’s culturally popular even praised to be cynical and negative and pessimistic. We think it makes us sound smart and sophisticated to be able to nit pick. We put ourselves on a pedestal by being able to tell you why this idea or that historically held opinion is foolish.
I know because that’s what I did. That’s what I thought. But, the truth was, it just made me a jerk. It made me that pain in the rear that you couldn’t wait to get away from. People weren’t drawn to me, they were repelled from me. Sure I could support my argument, but people didn’t want to argue.
Our world doesn’t need any more cynics and pessimists. What we need now, more than ever are optimists. People who have hope. People who have God’s eternal perspective on every situation and are able to see that it is in fact going to work out for the good. Especially now. When there is a radically negative spin to everything, no matter which side of the issue you land on, now is when we need people with hope.
And, if you’re a leader of any kind and if you want to make any kind of impact, this is doubly true for you. If you want people to follow you (kind of the point of leadership), you have to be the kind of person people want to follow. (One book that has helped me in my journey to become a more positive leader was [#afflink] “The Power of Positive Leadership” by Jon Gordon.) And if you’re a pastor (like me), and you’re negative and pessimistic about life and the church (like I was), I’d challenge you to take a hard look inside yourself and see why.
You may think this is all petty. You may think this is superficial. “If you’re a positive person, you don’t have to try, you just are.” That’s fine. Some people are wired in a more naturally positive way. But in case you’re not. In case you’re like me and have struggled with being optimistic your whole life, this isn’t superficial. It’s incredibly deep and significant.
And I want you to know. You can change. I know this because I have. I even had someone say I was “so optimistic.”
And if you know me, that says a lot.
Hi, my name is David. And I’m a recovering pessimist.