May 27, 2009

Expectations And Gratitude 1.1

Because of my generally positive outlook on life, I’ve been accused more than once of being a Pollyanna, and not kindly so. This implies that I am naïve and unaware of the potential for evil that exists in human nature and the world. Those people who are under that misconception could not be more wrong.

I have been a victim of and/or a witness to cruelty, abuse, pain and monstrous evil. I have no illusions whatsoever about the human capacity for evil; ancient and modern history show that human nature has not changed in all the millennia of its existence, only its tools have.

But I cannot let this be the only view I have of humanity because I have also been the recipient and observer of amazing kindness, small to sacrificial. In my encounters with people, I do not overlook their weaknesses and failings; I reach beyond that to the good that dwells inside. Some may believe their own kindness is a façade to the “real” person that lies within, but I believe that knowledge of what goodness looks like usually means the capacity for real goodness exists within. I always look for good; sometimes I find God.

We can be hurt by our expectations, so we must take care not to expect too much or inappropriately. In any human relationship, it is expectations that get us into so much trouble. If we do not at least partially understand a person’s history, capabilities, desires and limitations, we are doomed to disappointment. Even with appropriate hopes, we must be ready to forgive the inevitable lapses of which we are all guilty.

Since every single one of us will fail at some time or another, how do we avoid cynicism and pessimism? By actively cultivating a philosophy of gratitude. If all we see is what we do not have, we are failing ourselves; and we must forgive ourselves our failings every bit as we must forgive others theirs. Understand that I am not promoting low standards by encouraging gratitude. But by knowing what terrible conditions exist at any moment in our world, we can embrace what little or abundant grace has come our way.

By all means we must have full vision of our world: its goodness and evil, its abundance and famine, its successes and failures. We can choose bitterness or we can cultivate a sense of joy. Choose gratitude.


Greg said...

My goodness, how often have I come to your blog and found exactly the words I needed to read at just the right moment? Too often to count, but gosh, am I grateful for the moments.

Thanks, Birdie love!

Ur-spo said...

Good for you!

People don't remember Pollyanna also 'chose' to see well; she was not naif or silly or in denial.

Patrick said...

Yes. What you said. It's a funny development in our culture that cynicism has become evidence of intelligence for many (maybe it's not such a new development; the pose may have been with us since fifth century Athens). But there's nothing easier, or lazier, than assuming the worst. Cynics don't have to take any risks, they just get to smile condescendingly at the people who DO, and look smug if some of those risks don't pan out. Choosing gratitude, like any choice, certainly can be made by people who haven't done their homework, but in my experience most people who choose it are like you; their eyes are open, they know history, they've experienced the full range of human behavior, and gratitude still seems like the WISE choice. Thanks for this clear, concise reminder.

Roxrocks said...

I've been so guilty in my life of having too high expectations of people. It breaks my heart when I think of all the missed opportunities. Thankfully, there is time for growth.

tornwordo said...

My ex used to get really upset at my pollyannaishness. Like I wasn't being real or something. But it really is a choice. Express gratitude for the abundance every day and often and your outlook will change. I believe very strongly in low expectations, consequently I'm rarely disappointed.

Java said...

A good reminder of a great philosophy. Thanks, Birdie.