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  • Melinda K. Bowens

#BreakingTheCycle: The Defense of Pessimism

#BreakingTheCycle: The Defense of Pessimism

For starters, I don’t think many people claim to be full-time pessimists. Just the thought of that position sounds like a full time job with bad benefits, even worse coworkers and no overtime pay. But even though many of us don’t participate in pessimism on a full-time basis, many of us are guilty of picking up a temp position every now and then; and sometimes more often than we care to admit.

But we’re creative people and pessimist has such a bad ring to it. And like anyone else, we don’t want to be associated with anything bad, so we play with the semantics a little to make it seem less harsh. This is where the phrase, “I’m not being negative, I’m just a realist,” starts getting repeated. So, let’s look at the difference between realist and pessimist. (I’m a teacher. Can you tell?! Lol)

Realist: someone who can look at things as they are and handle them in a practical manner

Pessimist: someone who tends to see the worst aspect of things or believes the worst will happen


Now, the main difference between a realist and a pessimist is the ability or inability to see the strengths of a situation. A realist may be practical, but that would include them being able to identify the positive and the negative. The pessimist is going to struggle a little more with seeing those positives. But that’s not where I think we really struggle. I think our real struggle sometimes lies in not being able to put words and a voice to those positives that we see.

Because if we voice those positives, if we put real words to the excitement of our expectations, then that makes it all real. But once an idea is real that also opens the door for there to be real failures, real disappointments, and real shortcomings. Those are also some real unpleasant events and emotions to experience. And I don’t know too many (I really don’t know any) people who are waving their hands and volunteering to face those types of struggles on purpose.

I say all of that to say this: we don’t choose pessimism because we’re necessarily negative people; we choose pessimism because sometimes we’re scared and cautious people. As humans, it’s typically an automatic response to protect ourselves from anything we think is dangerous or unfavorable. So why wouldn’t we try and avoid these less than enjoyable situations?!


As long as we’re being less than optimistic about our ambitions, passions and dreams that leaves a “cushion.” By cushion I mean, we leave a soft space in the middle for us to fall. Because if we never shared our full excitement, then no one can know our full disappointment. If we never showed our full commitment, then our full feeling of defeat goes unnoticed. Honestly, quite often we’re held back by the thought of being embarrassed by failure.

The idea to not outwardly express our visions (and ultimately downplay our desires) may provide us with some personal relief, but the big picture is that we are either creating or destroying our future with the words that we speak (Proverbs 18:21).

Is the fear of failure truly more powerful than our dreams being realized and lived? We get to choose.


Chat with God


In what three areas are you the most pessimistic?


What is it about these areas? How can your words change this?


What is your one sentence prayer to God in this situation?


Please invite a friend to this series who you think would like to join this journey!

Get information about my new book here!

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