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.