The other day someone tweeted that doing social good for her meant only tweeting positive things and good news. I rolled my eyes and muttered, “How on earth is that helpful?”
I am a firm believer in yin yang. The idea that opposite forces are connected and dependent on each other – that one cannot exist without the other. After all, how would we know what good is if bad didn’t exist? Our daily goal should be to find and maintain balance in our lives – balance between too much of anything.
Whether or not we acknowledge the existence of negative things in the world, they are there. No amount of positive thinking is going to prevent bad things from happening to us. If we choose to ignore it, we risk being unprepared when negative things do happen. Does that mean we should be walking around like a grouch? No, but there is a happy middle ground between negative and positive extremes. A middle ground that prepares us for the worst while hoping for the best.
Being unprepared for negative events is only one of my issues with too much positive thinking. Another issue is the potential for laying the blame on individuals for the negative things that happen to them. Things that are beyond anyone’s control. The idea that positive thinking can protect us from negative things then implies that these negative things that happen to people are deserved. That somehow someone did something to deserve cancer or some other terrible disease. Or that the guy with the corner office positive thought his way in there rather than working his butt off. These are obviously extreme examples but fall in line with the same train of thought. Ultimately, bad things happen to good people and to bad people. It is about accepting it and coping/moving on. Sometimes there just isn’t an explanation for the amount of pain in a person’s life. It is not necessarily a reflection of who he is. What will say something about him is how he has dealt with whatever life has thrown his way.
It’s nice to believe that the universe conspires to get us what we want but maybe it would be easier on our souls if we didn’t take it so personally. That we just have to accept what comes our way and cope with it as best as we can. You do your best and that is all anyone can ask for. Does this belief absolve us from doing anything? No. Does it mean not even bothering to participate? No. You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a lottery ticket.
Not to mention that some of the most brilliant and creative minds we know are borne out of strife. And if you think about the negative things that have happened to you, aren’t you a better person for it? A lot of positive change has come out of negative events so why do we think that we’re better off without it? Because it’s hard? Sure. But Thomas Paine said it best when he wrote,
What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods…
Call me a realist. Call me whatever name you want but I’m not joining your positivity cult. Now let the good times roll…