When Optimism is a Negative thing

wine glass filled with water
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Don’t you love positive people?  You know, the glass is half-full type people.  Those folks who see the good in everything and are always “up.”  They brighten our day and give us hope.  They forge ahead knowing it will all turn out good.  Great leaders are the optimistic, the hopeful, the positive, and the winners.

But optimism isn’t all that it seems. It can lead to denial.

Sometimes life is tough, and things are hard, and the obstacles are overwhelming.

When these seasons of life come our way, it is good to be negative.  It is good to simply acknowledge that things are hard.

At the beginning of this Pandemic, someone whom I now follow on LinkedIn, and who is a small business owner had to lay off all (or almost all) of her employees.  She was utterly devastated, and she stated that on her post.  It hurt her, it bothered her, and it tormented her.  She didn’t know if her business would survive nor how her employees would make it either. She said she would go it alone for as long as she could.  She spoke out of the core of her heart, in agony over a decision that affected lives.

That’s a sign of a true Servant Leader!  Open about their own struggles and real about their feelings.  Struggling over the this was doing to her employees. She didn’t put on some optimistic front but was authentic by expressing the nightmare she was experiencing.

If she had taken the optimistic approach by trying to be “strong” acting as if it wasn’t a struggle, or that she had it all together, or simply saying, “it will all work out;”  I would have doubted her sincerity and her humanness.  Those are the kind of leaders whose words fall on deaf ears.  I don’t admire the “strong” leader, I do admire the leader who is strong in the midst of their brokenness.

Later, she did refer to the fact that God has a plan and putting her trust in that.  That kind of trust can be present even in our darkest days, that kind of trust isn’t a frothy optimism but a sure realism in the midst of the trials of life.

Optimism is negative when it denies feelings and tries to override emotions.  It is negative when it pushes aside what’s going on in the real lives of real people. It’s negative when it turns into a form of denial and self-delusion.

This is not a glass half-full vs. half-empty thing. It’s not about a positive thinker vs a negative thinker.  It’s not about the power of positive thinking, but hopefulness in the midst of reality.  It’s the power of real thinking (and feeling).  It’s owning the situation, owning how you feel about the situation, being compassionate and empathetic for those struggling in the situation, and moving ahead with planning and living through the situation.



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