Why Stay Positive in a World of Cynics?

It is hard to stay positive in today’s world.  Children are dying in famines in Africa, and are starving in American cities.  Loved ones are lost in terrorist attacks and wars and to cancer and car crashes.  Women live in unspeakable circumstances as their freedoms are controlled in societies throughout the world.  Homes and lives are lost in hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes.  Every day struggles to obtain and keep a decent paying job are often daunting and overwhelming.  Relationships fall apart and break hearts. Death and loss confront us on a daily basis, and even more so, now that there is a plethora of media formats to connect us to previously local tragedies. People everywhere are hurting.  Suffering is everywhere.

So, in the face of all of these nightmares, it can seem naïve or even insensitive to carry around a positive attitude.  Certainly, at the very least, being a cynic can make a person popular in many circles, where self-deprecating or critical or complaining humor can feel more “relatable” and “genuine” than a perky smile or a “I’m doing great today!” communication.

But for those folks who want to crush the positivity out of a smiling soul simply to relieve the pain in their own, I have to say, it isn’t going to make their lives better.  The resentment directed towards a positive person could best be taken as a clue to look inward, to address the source of pain inside, rather than attack good energy where it exists in this world.  It is so much easier to envy, to criticize, to mock, to try to bring that person into our circle of suffering, but the truth is, the positive people living the seemingly perfect lives are not the problem.

Life amidst the stones in the road

There seems to be a prevailing zeitgeist that being positive is not being real.  That could not be further from the truth.  Being artificial turns people off, but true positivity is a balancing act that should be commended, not degraded. Being positive requires emotional courage and strength.  Being positive requires being secure in oneself, because being positive is often an unpopular choice in a world where many people are looking to find a mirror for their own pain.  Being positive requires looking at the suffering, seeing it, changing what you can in the situation, seeking support when needed, and keeping a forward momentum while appreciating and choosing to focus on the good in life.  Life is not all bleak.  There are brilliant moments of love, tenderness, beauty, comfort, coziness, self-sacrifice, and compassion hidden in the rubble.  The positive people among us just know how to focus on those things when the walls come down.  They know how to appreciate the simple things, like a cozy blanket, or a sunny day and make them significant.  They know how to smile or offer words of comfort to a struggling stranger.  They know how to try when trying is the last thing they might want to do inside.  They are warriors with their inner ghouls and make deliberate, challenging choices to be hopeful, pleasant, and kind. They are joy givers and light bringers.  They can sometimes be the people we disdain, but maybe that’s because we wish that we were able to be the people they are:  defenders of joy, innocence, and goodness in the world.

Author’s disclaimer:  I’m not sure that I identify as a positive person.  I have my moments, and I have my struggles.  Depends on who you ask, I guess!  But I know other positive people when I see them (I am thankful to call several of these folks my friends) and while I may have had my moments siding with the cynics, with each year of my life, I develop deeper admiration for the positive people.  This post is for you!

Also, if  you would like to help those families who are suffering in Somalia, please click on the link in the first paragraph of this post to learn how you can assist the relief effort.

Linking up with Shell at Things I Can’t Say for

19 responses to “Why Stay Positive in a World of Cynics?

  • MEL

    It is tough to stay positive in today’s world–but that’s what makes it so important to seek those moments out!

    To help with the search:


  • Jeanette

    I will agree that the media makes suffering more visual to us than in the past, but honestly life has been full of suffering and pain forever. Pick up a Bible or any old historical book and read of people dying in the streets as someone walks by. These are the lessons we learn from childhood that a man named Jesus tried to teach others to relieve, feed the hungry, visit the sick, help the poor. We see them more because of TV. We hear political folks arguing the most silly things, and that does spred the negative….so turn it off. Make a positive list on the fridge and write down V’s smiles and visits from old friends, a card in the mail, the sun glistening off of the water, turn on PBS and watch a children’s cartoon and turn off the news. Not to say live in a world that is ignorant, help anywhere you are capable and know that in your help you are part of the solution, but don’t let the people who just love to spread the negative into your life. I have learned in the past couple of years that I need to guard myself from negative. Too much sadness has happened in my life and if I am going to crawl out the other side, I can’t be weighed down with unnecessary hurt. I avoid any and all political discussion and certainly anything on the news since none of that is real anyway, I try to avoid those who want to complain about life and spread negative about others, and I focus on joys and good things. I am still exposed to hurt, I still see world suffering and do what I can in my own small way, but remain on my mission to find positive.

    • pmlevitt

      I agree that suffering is an eternal struggle; look at Job. I think it is harder for us to filter out what we can deal with now with all the media formats(before, we dealt with personal struggles alone and often, those are enough!) and agree that we all need to filter what we can handle. Personally, I don’t think all political discourse is the contributing factor, although many politicians seek division and divisiveness as we have certainly seen with the debt crisis issue and many others. I think it is important to balance seeking information that is useful and instructive vs. that which is harmful and divisive rhetoric. I also think envy creating advertising, difficult and seemingly insurmountable struggles, constant contact with other people’s dramatic tragic stories through media formats can be equally destructive. We all have our buttons and things that bring us down. As you say, it is a choice we actively make to keep the positive in our lives. Good thoughts!

  • Nicole

    What a great post! I have been dealing with a lot of people putting me down to make themselves feel better, & it’s sad for both parties really. I try to keep it positive & not knock others when I am not!

  • Shell Things (@shellthings)

    I don’t see where being negative is going to do anything to help the situations that are going on. So, why not try to find some positive.

  • Laura O'Rourke (@LauraORourke)

    You are completely right. Being positive is so important, even in the face of so much pain. I remember the point when I made a conscious decision to change from an angsty teenager to a positive person. I was in grade nine and suddenly realized that my negativity was alienating me. From that point on, I promised to smile, be positive, and try to be as kind as possible.

    Every once in a while, I need a little reminder. 🙂

  • Kristin @ What She Said

    I find that the older I get, the more positive I also want to try to be. It’s often difficult, seeing as I’m apparently hard-wired to do the exact opposite. And because of that, I tend to be easily influenced by negative people – feeding off their negativity is a trap that I have to force myself not to get caught in.

    But I find that the older I get, the more I appreciate life’s simple pleasures. And the more I want to look at the world with hope and optimism, even if I sometimes fail. And while I do use snarky humor and self-deprecation as a defense mechanism, I try not to cross any lines that would be hurtful to others.

    • pmlevitt

      It is difficult. I have been in work situations particularly where negative vibes have affected me. Sometimes it feels good to shake off the negativity and distance oneself a bit. I think with age and experience come tragedies, sorrows, and understanding of the important things in life, which make it easier to keep things in perspective and take pleasure in simple things. I think self-deprecation is a bit different than diminishing others, which is the kind of hurtful humor I find to be most shallow and destructive. We can poke fun at ourselves occasionally; it is the overall contribution of a negative tone to our persona that I was eluding to in my post.

  • Galit Breen

    I love how direct and honest this is. It’s true, we’ve all fallen victim to negativity at one point or another. This is an excellent reminder to look at the bigger picture, to focus within. It seems to always come back to kindness, doesn’t it? Do no harm, yes?

    Extremely thought provoking- thank you for that!

    • pmlevitt

      Thanks Galit! I have as well, so I know how easy it is to go that route. And yes you are right, it does come back to kindness, which I think is often and sadly underrated nowadays.

  • Juliana

    Great post! I have been guilty of being angry with positive people when I was going through hard times. I think it really did boil down to jealousy. Now that things are going pretty well, I really appreciate people that are positive when they are genuine.

  • Frelle

    thank you for pouring your heart out honestly, and linking up today. Im glad for your advocacy too.

  • Anastasia

    It is hard to stay positive. But I really cannot stand super negative people. How does it help to stand around and complain or be rude? Not one bit.

  • ClaireMcA

    Having a positive attitude and working to see things from a different perspective is a conscious decision that we make and a practice that eventually becomes second nature if we practice it often.

    To be positive is often about developing empathy and compassion and actually I find that is a positive thing about people who are stuck in negativity, because they provide us with the challenge to respond to them with empathy and compassion. We don’t have to agree, it may just be a gesture of kindness or sending them loving thoughts, because negativity in a person usually indicates some kind of suffering. Its a super challenge and we don’t go out looking for it, but rather than engaging with it or even ignoring it, my challenge is always to find compassion and empathy.

    Doesn’t always work that’s for sure, but it helps one to cope.

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