How to become an eternal optimist

Tips for Life

By Alan Bailey

THERE are many definitions of optimists and pessimists. I heard that an optimist is a man who, having fallen off a 20 storey building, was heard to say as he passed the window of the second level, “I’m OK so far.” A pessimist is a man who wears a belt, and braces too.

So the optimist is the person who looks on the bright side, feeling that better things are up ahead. The pessimist is afraid that things will turn out badly.


Today, you don’t have to try hard to find a pessimist. Ask an unemployed person, the person who has just lost money in business or has scrambled out of the wreckage of a broken family. Why, not a news bulletin goes by, not a daily paper printed, without a good dose of gloomy forecasts. Aids, the economy, trends in crime, the environment, the threat of climate change, questions of peace and war. All fit well with the pessimist’s outlook.

Finding an optimist is harder, but not impossible. There is still a good deal of confidence that eventually human beings will get it right; that at last we will conquer our problems and enjoy peace and tranquility. Science will be our saviour. With knowledge we will overcome. Cynicism would suggest that it is mainly politicians looking for votes that speak about the good days up ahead.


Little people like you and me must either be optimists or pessimists as we face the future. But then, we say, it all depends. It depends on how we feel at a given moment. We are a bit like children in a playground. Now back and forth on a swing, or up and down on a see-saw, or going round and round on the roundabout until we don’t know what we think. The best thing to do is to live for today, forgetting the question of whether there is hope for tomorrow.


The Bible shows us that optimism and pessimism both have their place. In a clear way, the Bible shows that the human race is heading for a sticky end because the majority are choosing to live without God. It speaks of trouble and destruction of this earth, then judgment by God that lasts forever. That’s pessimistic.

But then it speaks of great and glorious things up ahead. It tells of people who are “more than conquerors”; then it tells of people for whom “all things work together for good”. It goes on to say that nothing in all the world can separate them from the love of God.


It all depends on which side you are. For those who shut God out of their lives, who never experience the saving power of Jesus Christ, a pessimistic future is right in line.

For those whose trust is in God who has brought them to Himself in Christ, there is a most optimistic future, better than anything we can imagine.

There is a world of difference in these destinies.

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