It Just Might Make Sense to Be Optimistic! - Chaplains Corner

  • Published
  • By Chaplain Tim Jacobs
  • 452 AMW Chaplains Corps

Is your glass half full or half empty? If you look closely, you may be surprised at what you find. In his book, The Savior Generals , Victor Davis Hanson profiles several military figures throughout history whose leadership was absolutely critical in turning around key battles that were all but lost when they arrived on the scene. One of those was General Matthew Ridgeway, who was tasked to essentially rescue the US and UN efforts in the Korean War from what popular opinion considered to be all out failure. Long story short, in just one hundred days, Ridgeway was able to completely shift the momentum of the war toward the US and its allies, sparking a new sense of hope among the troops as well as the “powers that be” back home.

But how did he do it? The key reason Hanson offers is that when Ridgeway actually looked closely at the situation, he realized that it was not as bad as he had been told. You see, many Americans came to believe that the enemy forces were almost invincible and that there was no way they could win. But just because that was the narrative did not mean it was the truth.

Here’s the point: When Ridgeway looked objectively at the situation, he saw rational, verifiable reasons to be optimistic. Hanson writes, “Optimism, if grounded in logic rather than blind hope, was critical for restoration.” In other words, he realized that it was more rational to be optimistic in that situation than it was to be pessimistic.

You see, often people will say, “I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.” They love to equate pessimism with realism, and optimism with pie-in-the-sky, irrational hopefulness. But have you ever wondered why people don’t relate optimism with realism? Maybe the “realists” are nothing more than cynics who couldn’t see a silver lining if it hit them between the eyes!

So what does this have to do with you and me? Well, let’s face it, life is stressful. And when we get stressed, tired, hungry (even “hangry”), our outlook on life starts to deteriorate. As we become overwhelmed, even normal life challenges can start to look scary and insurmountable.

But maybe things aren’t as bad as they seem. Maybe if we just stop and look closely at what we’re facing, taking each issue one by one, we’ll realize that not only is our situation not as bad as we thought, but we instead have every rational reason in the world to be optimistic. The thing about optimism is that it builds on itself – it opens your eyes to see options that you couldn’t see before. And when you have options, you have hope!

Of course, what lies underneath all of this is faith. The New Testament defines faith this way: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) So have a little faith, because I bet your glass is fuller than you think!