Pessimism and The Art of Unforgiveness
In his article, “Are You A Negaholic? 5 Ways Pessimism is Ruining Your Life,” Michael Hyatt from MICHAELHYATT.COM lays out beautifully what pessimism is and how it affects our lives and our relationships. I read the article this morning, and it impacted me powerfully; I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Initially, I was only planning to repost it on my Facebook account with a comment about how important the article was for all of us to read, and then I went to church. My pastor’s message couldn’t have been timelier, because the more I listened to his message about forgiveness, the more I kept rolling it around in my head that it went right along with the article about pessimism.
As I reflected on what pessimism is, I began to size up my own immediate family and take inventory of whom, I believe to be, a pessimist. It is pretty simple to size up a pessimist, but in doing so, it causes a lot of self-reflection as a spouse and parent. I began thinking about our collective families, and it became apparent who the pessimists are, and I started to think about the impact it had on us all. I don’t pretend to be an expert on pessimism, but being that I don’t classify myself a pessimist or optimist, but rather a realist, I realize that being a realist can have tendencies bordering on both pessimism and optimism depending on the people or situation.
What is the impact of pessimism on our children? Do we inadvertently teach them to be skeptical of all people and to be conspiracy theorists? Do we teach them that they need to place a guard around their hearts to protect them from others and not to depend on others or God? Do we teach them that our government is wicked and out to get us? Do we teach them that they are not enough, and that they will never be good enough? Do we implement such high standards and are overly critical of them to the point where they don’t feel loved or valued, and they feel the need to run away from us?
I would equate a pessimist with being a dark cloud. This correlates to the article above, when the author talked about the individual that cornered him, and he just wanted to run away. A pessimist is so full of negativity, and everything is wrong in the world to them, that after having an undesirable conversation, one walks away feeling “icked.”
A pessimist exists in all circles of life. They are not difficult to spot. They are in our classrooms, the marketplace, Corporate America, the military, the doctor’s office, and in our churches. I would venture to say that being a pessimist is toxic and damaging, especially in our churches. A pessimist is the one who sits in the pew with their arms folded, sitting on every word a pastor teaches, and ready to mentally critique every word that is spoken. He/she is always in disagreement about what is shared and how things are done, because a pessimist is the only expert. They are quick to fall out of good standing with a church and are quick to leave a trail of dust as they exit. They are negative, judgmental, difficult to get along with, and a know-it-all. We can all be pessimists. There are enough things going on in our world causing potential negative responses, but it is the open and spiritual person, who not only recognizes this, but he/she chooses to release it to God and trust him and others and move on. It doesn’t indicate that we should be ignorant about what goes on in our churches or our jobs. If it is unhealthy for us, then it is important that we know what God’s plan is for us and our family and make decisions accordingly. What happens when it is of our doing that problems are created and magnified?
I wonder what factors create a pessimist. A parent(s) who raises a child (children) in a negative environment? I wonder if certain personalities are more prone to being pessimists? I wonder if those of us who have more of a melancholy personality may be more prone to being a pessimist? Is it a societal issue, a family issue, a biological issue, a spiritual issue, or all of some of the above?
Whatever the case, what efforts does one take to realize that he/she is a pessimist, and how does one interact with those who are? Is there an inventory? I would venture to say that one has to be open to assess who they are, because if he/she is not open, then it may very well be impossible for him/her to size themselves up. One indicator is the relationships a pessimist has in their life. Do they have friendships with others, or are they isolated? If this person has children, do they come around? Is this individual highly critical of others and believe themself to be a high authority on many, if not all, matters? Has this individual performed well in their job(s), or have they bounced around, because they feel that they are not appreciated, or that others offend them?
This correlates well with the topic of my pastor’s sermon today on unforgiveness. Some of the ideas he presented were about wounds, and how people deal with being wronged. If pessimism is about negativity, then what is unforgiveness? It, obviously, delves into negative arenas and not positive ones. Are any of us prone to unforgiveness? Yes, we all are, because we are human. If one is a pessimist, he/she can feel like a martyr and feel that he/she is constantly wronged by others, and a natural pattern of behavior with this attitude is harboring unforgiveness towards others. As my pastor spoke today, he said that, “old wounds cause infection, and to keep on rehearsing them will eventually lead to death. Our enemy wants us to keep fishing in the same spot over and over. To forgive means releasing it to God. It doesn’t mean that we no longer remember what was done to us, nor does it mean that our woundings have not been legitimate, but it means that we have to release them to God and let him handle it. Forgiving means not rehearsing the wrongs. It recognizes the benefits of moving on. It also recognizes the future benefits of choosing forgiveness. Forgiveness offers no guarantee, but it offers grace. Forgiveness will not allow anger, resentment, and hatred to destroy an individual. Unforgiveness binds us to our past, and forgiveness binds us to our future.” (R. Strack)
I believe that growth is always possible. I believe that we have to ask for forgiveness as we recognize the thoughts, patterns, and behavior that have been passed down to our children, and that we have to release our parents from the patterns and behaviors that have been passed down to us. I believe that everyone can change and move forward.I apologize for being a pessimist at times, and for being oblivious of my thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, and how they affect my spouse, my children, my family, my friends, and others. I want to grow and move forward. Please forgive me for being the know-it-all, skeptical, judgmental, critical, unpleasant, negative and unforgiving one. I am a work in progress, and I have a lot to learn. Most of the time, I feel that I am an utter mess! Thank you for being patient with me.