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Optimism Takes a Beating in Tough Times

By Rusty Wright, Founder of Rusty Wright Communications
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When the Optimist Club gets pessimistic, you know times are tough.

The Associated Press reports that an Optimist Club meeting in Gilbert, Arizona, started off positive enough members discussed service projects and enthused over each other's accomplishments. But then the conversation turned to the war in Iraq, expensive gasoline, food prices, the housing market, and economic uncertainty. Words like "terrified," "disgusted," "scary," and "this mess" entered the conversation.

"There's just entirely too much wrong right now," summarized one member.

The American psyche has taken a thrashing in recent months. Rising fuel costs affect commuter housing and employment decisions. UPS computers help plot delivery routes to minimize gas-wasting left turns. Constant media attention to economic crisis reflects and some say exacerbates pervasive pessimism.

Pervasive Pessimism


Maybe you feel like the country song laments: "If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all." A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found 82 percent of Americans believed the nation's economy was in bad shape. Seventy percent deemed fuel costs a hardship for their families.

How's your Hummer's mileage these days? General Motors announced plans to close four truck and SUV plants and to focus on fuel-efficient vehicles. Airline ticket prices climb. Some carriers add checked baggage fees to existing snack fees, prompting critics to quip that in-flight pay toilets may appear next.

A glance at 2008 Gallup polling headlines indicates the extent of US pessimism: "Economy Surpasses Iraq as Most Important Problem." "Americans Worried About Their Standard of Living." "Jobs Outlook Worst in Four Years." "Consumer Confidence Down." "Pessimism Clouds Housing Market." "Economic Pessimism Hits Gallup High."

Whew! Chocolate, anyone? How about some hope?

Losing hope of a positive future can have serious consequences. UCLA psychologist James C. Coleman noted several examples. " Shipwreck victims who lose hope may die after a few days, even though physiologically they could have survived many days longer." Loss of hope can contribute to suicide. "Values, meaning, and hope appear to act as catalysts" for mobilizing energy and finding satisfaction. Without them, Coleman reported, life can seem futile.1

Up, Up, and Away


One enterprising fellow has found a way to rise above gas and travel woes. Kent Couch recently attached helium balloons to his lawn chair and flew over 200 miles from Oregon into Idaho. Couch used a BB gun to shoot balloons to descend. He says he enjoys "the peace, the serenity" from his high flying excursions. This was his third. His wife, Susan, called him crazy.

Not everyone can escape as Couch did. An American Psychological Association survey found that economic and job concerns are contributing to heightened stress in the USA. The APA says a third of Americans experience extreme stress and nearly half feel their stress has increased in recent years. Many handle stress by overeating, increased drinking or smoking. The APA's list of healthy stress management behaviors includes listening to music, reading, exercising, spending time with family and friends, and praying.

Family, friends and prayer can make a difference. During a particularly dark time in my life, my mentor reminded me of a statement that an early follower of Jesus made in a letter to some friends: "God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God."2 That hasn't been repealed yet, my friend emphasized. He was right. Faith, family, and friends helped me to land on my feet.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about your future? Popular speaker Robert Schuller has often said, "Tough times never last, but tough people do." Faith can help develop the endurance we all need to cope with today's challenging times.



Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.



1 James C. Coleman, Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life, Fourth Edition (Glenview, Illinois: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1972), pp. 108-109.

2 Romans 8:28 NLT.

 

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Comments


I don't know about this article being encouragement.
I woke up today and my devotional said that if my prayers aren't coming through to spend my time in praise, so I thought, good that is what I'll do to-day.
I just about half finished painting my bathroom to find out it is too dark, I couldn't figure out what was wrong with my baking but now I know my bottom element isn't working. With my widows income of 385.00 of which I can't afford to cover my rent, food and bills I certainly can't afford repairs. I tried selling my 5 ton truck to pay my bills and it seems like no one has money and now I can't afford to advertise it anymore. I would like to sell my other property but the only interested people only want to pay half of its assessed value with part payment now and the rest on installments. Not enough to pay out my bills and the people aren't exactly trustworthy to pay the rest.
My brother finally came and fixed my weedeater only to find I don't have the twine for it and no money to buy any. (gloom)
I was suppose to sit for my brother's daughter for free but when he found out I had no money and my food was all seafood he got my nephew who is living in a very overcrowded house instead who then handed off his daughter to my mom who came by today trying to give her to me, but I don't have food for her as she won't eat as I do.
My mother also has my niece's two daughters of whom my niece raised on the premise that they don't need to do anything they don't want to including cleaning even after themselves but now my niece is upset with them because they won't help her keep the house clean so doesn't want them for the summer. But we aren't allowed to tell her children what to do. Now my mom wants me to take them too. I haven't figured out whats written on my forehead. Far as I remember, I am the strictest in the whole family and definitely speak my mind. I must be missing something here.
I am running out of even the basics. I was going to make bread as I have the fixings for it but now no oven.
So this evening after my mom stormed out mad at me I thought well God I really need to sing praise and worship not only to you but for me and my sanity. I looked at the song sheets and couldn't even remember most of the tunes.
Thats alright though I can still read, listen, talk and think. God thought of everything when He formed us and for that I am extra thankful for today.

The thought behind all this is that usually when you hear of someone having it worse than you do it makes your load lighter. If it isn't enough just let me know because there is more but I don't want to make you cry for me as I am not on a sympathy trip. I am still quite thankful and content.
God bless.
7/16/2008 3:13:37 AM - anonymous


" IF ANYONE DESIRES TO COME AFTER ME, LET HIM DENY HIMSELF, AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS DAILY AND FOLLOW ME" (LUKE 9:23); "THESE THINGS I HAVE SPOKEN UNTO YOU, THAT IN ME YOU MAY HAVE PEACE. IN THE WORLD YOU WILL HAVE TRIBULATION; BUT BE OF GOOD CHEER, I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD." (JOHN 16:33); "AND WHATEVER IS BORN OF GOD OVERCOMES THE WORLD, THIS IS THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMES THE WORLD, OUR FAITH" (1 JOHN 5:4); "JESUS LOVES ME THIS I KNOW, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO."
:) DR
8/12/2008 5:43:02 PM - anonymous



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