Pessoptimist

Soundtrack: Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself I can never decide if I'm a pessimist or an optimist. I've been told before that I'm an optimist, but it doesn't really feel that way. I most often doubt people's motives, struggle to believe their intentions aren't just for selfish gain, that they can do something genuinely good out of selflessness, etc. Now before you go calling me out on how I don't love God because I don't love/trust people yada yada yada... hear me out.

Philosopher, mathematician, and overall bad A (and you know that "A" stands for apple), Blaise Pascal once said:

"All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. This is the motive of every action of every man, even those who hang themselves."

I love Pascal. This quote blows my mind every time I read it because it's so darn true. Every human action is rooted in the desire and pursuit of happiness, even for the man who thinks the only means to happiness is to kill himself.

  • "I like to dress really cute because... people thinking highly of me for being fashionable will make me happier."
  • "I like to watch loads of TV because... ignoring my current reality will make me happier." (This is strictly a hypothetical example. I like my reality, and I love me some TV.)
  • "I lie to my roommate about something bothering me because... I'm not happy being in the middle of conflict."

Happiness drives every action we take whether we realize it or not, and our happiness sometimes takes priority over others, even those we love most. Is happiness a good thing? Totally. God wants us to be happy and find joy in Him (John 15:11). But does our pursuit of happiness lead us to do things that aren't good? You betcha.

I literally can't think of a single sin that I've committed or struggle with that doesn't in some way trace back to me wanting to be happy. I believe that what the world tells me will make me happy, will in fact make me happy. So I try to be successful, beautiful, likable, funny, etc. - all these things the world says will fulfill me that somehow inevitably lead to sin. Can those things bring me happiness? Yes, but only temporarily.

The only eternal joy is in the only eternal God. And while I have to admit I suck at believing this, it's true. John 15:11 says, "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full". God wants us to be happy because it brings him glory, and he is most glorified when we are happiest in him. Kapeesh?

So I've decided I'm both a pessimist and an optimist. I'm a pessimist about people - everyone's out for their own happiness and their own gain. I don't expect the best out of people because I know that we're all broken and looking for happiness in the wrong places, which leads us into a crap ton of sin.

But I am an optimist in my God. He has never failed me and never will fail me. I can trust in him because I know that every word spoken in scripture is true and every promise he has made will come to pass. I have no reason to believe in the goodness of man, and every reason to believe in the goodness of the cross. Jesus is the only goodness found in us and the only reason I can be optimistic that my God works in and through people.

With that said, I may have to rethink this whole pessimistic thing...