A few days ago I started a blog post dripping with cynicism as I reflected on 2016. I even rationalized that the only way to do better next time is to truly understand how shit you were the last time. Which, in the grand scheme of things, is certainly still true to an extent.
But since I put that blog post aside and thought more about how I wanted to reflect on 2016, I have decided that pessimism is the incorrect approach.
You see, cynicism and pessimism veiled as realism are the easy approach. It takes no effort to point out every flaw, to only see the negative. In fact, it comes all to naturally to us.
Why else does the Bible dote so heavily on the topics of loving your neighbor (Mark 12:30-31), watching your tongue (James 3), and hope (Isaiah 40:31)?
The Bible focuses on all of these topics, encouraging positivity and kindness as the correct attitude, because the opposite comes naturally to us. As flawed humans it takes no energy or time to search out the negatives in life, in others, in ourselves. We straddle the line between constructive criticism and being overly critical; usually doing the former while claiming it is the latter.
And for the non-religious out there, we have these icons, these absolutely phenomenally brilliant people, who despite being in the most dismal of situations are the ones that epitomize positivity and hope.
Anne Frank, who said, “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”
Or this quote from Helen Keller, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
What I am trying to say is that cynicism is easy, it is boring. Everyone does it. The news is riddled with it. You hear it everywhere.
The only way to make 2017 better is to believe we have the strength to do better. And then to do it.
The only way to make 2017 better is to focus on what we have to be grateful for from 2016. Contrary to popular belief, resentment does not breed a revolutionary attitude for change.
Recognize where 2016 went wrong and do better this time. But also recognize what 2016 did right.
- Scientists figured out how to link robotic limbs with the part of the brain that deals with intent to move so people don’t have to think about how they will move the limb, it can just happen.
- Volunteers in India planted 50 million trees in 24 hours.
- New chemotherapy breakthroughs have increased the 5-year survival for pancreatic cancer from 16% to 27%
- Endangered tiger numbers are increasing instead of decreasing (the population is growing)
- Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, low-income, disabled, and English-learning students have all accomplished promising gains, creating a whopping 83.2% graduation rate for the nation as a whole
- DAPL got shut out of Standing Rock, the protestors won.
And so many other things that I cannot list.
Please do not mistake my thoughts for ignorance or the belief that we should ignore the tragedies that have occurred. I just think it is not that simple. We have to strive to believe that better things can be done. And we have to hold firmly to the good things that have happened.
Absolutely you must feel the sorrow, the stress, and the fear, also. Do not be blindly optimistic. But fight for a good 2017 with passion and compassion and hope.
If you get one thing out of this blog post I hope it is this: absolute cynicism is easy and common but blind optimism is ignorance. You can recognize the reality of 2016 and feel pain but do not let that drown out all the good things that also happened. No matter what your gut reaction to 2016 is, use your energy and passion to make 2017 amazing.