Training a Pessimist

My younger daughter is supposed to have a substitute teacher today. Last night as she was going to bed, she was telling me all about the "mean" substitute she is supposed to have today.

My daughter's first instinct in any situation is to look for the flaws. That's not always a bad trait. People who tend to see the holes in an argument or the flaws in a plan are pretty useful to have around when you're planning an event or building a skyscraper. However, that same trait can lead you to always look on the down side of things.

Clearly, my daughter is not a natural optimist. When hearing she was going to have a substitute, she immediately focused on the things she doesn't like about this particular substitute teacher. That made her attitude about the day poor -- before the day had even started.

If you have a child who naturally sees the flaws in things, it takes training to help them see the brighter side of things. It's not a natural inclination for them, so we have to help them see the beauty of God in any situation.

Change the focus. Last night, I told my daughter I wanted her to think of something good about this particular substitute and all day, I wanted her to look for the good things that happen instead of focusing on the bad things. When I got her thinking, she did come up with a few traits that she considered good about this substitute.

Focus on God's creation. We talked about how God made everyone so there has to be something good about each person -- even those people we don't particularly like. God says we're all "fearfully and wonderfully" made (Psalm 139:14), and that applies even to people we don't like.

Walk a mile in someone else's shoes. We also talked about how we need to walk a mile in someone else's shoes before we judge them because their job or situation may be harder than we think it is. Being a substitute teacher is hard. This teacher may feel like she has to come across as stern in order to keep control of the classroom.

My daughter is heading off to school today with some new things to think about. It's my hope and prayer that she'll see her substitute teacher in a new light and that this will be the beginning of a new way of looking at the world, that instead of always seeing the flaws, she'll see God's creation and plan.

God didn't make us all to be natural optimists, but He does want us to find Him in every situation, even the difficult ones.