“There is an optimism which nobly anticipates the eventual triumph of great moral laws, and there is an optimism which cheerfully tolerates unworthiness” (Agnes Repplier).
AN OPTIMISTIC OUTLOOK IS A RESULT OF HAVING CONFIDENCE THAT GOOD IS ULTIMATELY GOING TO TRIUMPH OVER EVIL. It is an attitude that imparts patience in the midst of difficult circumstances, and also patience with less-than-perfect people.
Optimism doesn’t mean we’re naive about the reality of evil in the world or the extent of the damage that evil has done. While it believes that one day everything will be fine, optimism is not so foolish as to imagine that everything is fine today. Clearly, everything is not fine, and genuine optimism looks at the facts with total honesty.
But is there any reason to believe that good will ultimately triumph over evil? I believe there is, even if we limit ourselves to the empirical evidence of human history and our own personal experience. If we consider the evidence, I believe we can’t help but see a pattern: truth tends to outlast falsehood, and rightdoing tends to outlast wrongdoing. The victories of evil in this world may be shocking and justice may be long delayed, but facts are stubborn and truth is resilient. Eventually, good has the last say. Why this is so is another question (one that is very interesting, both philosophically and religiously), but the pattern is undeniably clear. Right is more durable than wrong.
So we can make an intellectual choice to be optimists. In hours of darkness, we can choose to hold on to what we learned while the sun was shining. Maintaining our confidence that good will outlast its enemy, we can stand our ground before the various onslaughts of evil.
Optimism is an important perspective in life not because it makes us feel better but because it strengthens us and gives us courage. Life happens to be full of battles that have to be fought, and as Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Pessimism never won any battle.” Backbone comes from belief — belief that, despite any number of short-term setbacks, the long-term triumph of good is still sure.
“The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).