optimistic delusions

I was in a local coffee shop the other day and I overheard this guy with a British accent talking to his girlfriend.  He was talking about his experience in California and with Americans in general.  If I didn’t have to leave at the moment I probably would have nosed my way into their fascinating conversation.  He was saying that he noticed people in America were generally very optimistic and happy, the word he used was, “jolly”.  I thought it was a great observation.  Then I started thinking about the context and history of optimism.  I began wondering, if we are overly optimistic do we run the risk of becoming delusional?

There is a story about an ancient royal worker who is distressed over bad news of his homeland. There is a big deal made about this worker, Nehemiah never appearing sad in the presence of the king, but one day he did. The miracle was the king allowed his sad servant to share his heart, and then he gave Nehemiah safe passage back to his homeland to rebuild a wall.  Most kings were not so nice.  Most kings wanted to hear a good report, because the status of their kingdom reflects the king’s leadership. Most kings practiced a willful ignorance of the bad parts of their kingdom.

Have you ever been asked to give a report on how your area of responsibility is going? I think most everyone wants to paint a great picture during this report even if it’s bad news.  However, if we make the bad sound good, and we use words like,  “this could be a blessing, the opportunity we’ve been waiting for, chance for success, huge potential,”  then you run the risk of falling into the same pattern that kings advisors have been falling into for centuries.  When we give knowingly over-optimistic reports of a bad situation, isn’t that delusional?  I think of the child’s story of the emperor’s new clothes.  No one had the courage to show any negativity, much less realism toward the king.

I tend to be the guy who is realistic in these types of situations.  It makes me look like pessimistic person.  I do not desire to be pessimistic or divisive, just realistic.  In the same sense, I don’t want to blow smoke at people when there is really a tough situation happening.

I think the tough question is whom do we put around us?  Do we surround ourselves with optimists?   Do we disregard the people with bad news as pessimistic?  If that is you I’d suggest you might have a slightly skewed view of reality, it may even boarder on delusion!  Sometimes we surround ourselves with pessimist and our fate is the same, delusion!  I’d suggest the powerful middle ground of reality.  Sometimes to get a firm dose of reality we need to surround ourselves with both pessimists and optimists who can see reality for what it is.

What do you think?  At what point does optimism or even pessimism boarder on delusion?  Are you afraid of giving a realistic report to your superiors?  Do you live in the firm grasp of reality?  We might even ask the question, what is reality?

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