Christian Counseling: The Troubled Theology of the Eternal Optimist

The late author,Christian D. Larson, said "we gradually grow into the likeness of that which we think of the most." I completely agree. But the problem I have with most positive thinkers, be it Larson, Norman Vincent Peale or Joel Osteen is not offering a disclaimer or perpetually warning readers not to exclude critical thinking and the realities of negative feelings and thoughts, but to take courage in facing life's hardships head on. What the optimists write and say and readers believe are too often polyannish, romantic theologies and ways of living. Any distortion of truth and reality is a potential trap harmful to Christian living, despite how good it may make us feel. Even in heaven,during earth's end times, martyred saints ask God, "'How long, O Lord, holy and true, will you refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?'" (Revelations 6:10). In heaven there are no eternal optimists but realists. How much more so should we be while living on the earth in the midst of good and evil? 


Judge for yourself by another Larson quote from the magazine, Science of Mind 71, in 1998, which is in large measure part of The Optimist's Creed:

“Promise Yourself

To be so strong [Even to denying the reality that we have considerable weaknesses?] that nothing
can disturb your peace of mind [Jesus was in “anguish” in the Garden and frustrated with the disciples lack of faith. And God, the Father gets angry and is pained].
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person you meet [How then can one in distress feel another is joining with them in their pain?].

To make all your friends feel
that there is something in them [Nice, but iron sharpens iron.]
To look at the sunny side of everything [How do grow or confess our sins?]
and make your optimism come true [Research suggests pure optimism blinds us from full truth and those that are overly optimistic are not trusted as much as those they can be critical as well.].

To think only the best, to work only for the best,
and to expect only the best [Jesus says He did not trust people because He knew what was in them (Jn. 2:24).].
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own [Great.].

To forget the mistakes of the past [Never forget, they are teachers, but do not continue to belittle oneself.]
and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times [Is there no room for mourning? Affectation is deceptive.]
and give every living creature you meet a smile [Did Jesus? Unlikely with the Pharisees, Sadducees, etc.].

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself [Yes.]
that you have no time to criticize others [Is there no room for needed, beneficial, constructive criticism?].
To be too large for worry [Again, Jesus in the Garden sweating blood concerning what he was about to suffer], too noble for anger [Isn’t there such a thing as righteous anger and a command to be angry (Eph. 4:26)?],     too strong for fear [Fear can lead us back to God when we have lost our way and help us live righteously.] ,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble [Life is full of trouble and some troubles are from God. To live this way is denial. Should we refuse thinking about the trouble in trying to overcome the opposition to meet the needs of the poor and the injustices of the oppressed? Is not faith in the Bible referenced as a "fight?" Are we not to know our own sins and shortcomings?].

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words but great deeds [Very good, as long as you know well your own sin nature as well.].
To live in faith that the whole world is on your side
so long as you are true to the best that is in you. [Jesus, wholly good, was hated and murdered.]”

― Christian D. Larson, Your Forces and How to Use Them

Life would be amazing if all one’s friends would be as Larson suggests. But this is bad psychology and spirituality. Is it right to focus solely on the half-full glass? What about the other part of reality and truth—the half-empty glass? Do we just ignore it? At what great cost? The realist says the glass is always both because it is.

Who would you trust the most? A person who only tells you the good about you? The person who says only bad about you? Or the person who gives you both? (We all know what we would like, but the question is about trust!)

I say, “'Promise yourself” to be courageously open, honest, truthful, balanced and to accept life’s full reality—the good and wonderful and the bad and awful." We are, after all, created by God who said it is “good,” and yet, we are born with a sin nature that won’t be completely silenced this side of heaven. Fight the good fight of faith, but know that we are already victorious and in the end it will be awesome. That's about as optimistic as I can be. 

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