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On Being a Positive Realist

As the Bible says, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he."1

For successful living it is important not only to have a positive attitude and to think positively but, equally important, to be a positive realist.

For example, I have read how Admiral Jim Stockdale was repeatedly tortured during eight years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi during the Vietnam War—and survived.

Strange as it may at first seem, "In an interview with author Jim Collins, Admiral Stockdale commented that the optimists were the ones who were least likely to survive the camps. They refused to accept reality. They kept predicting that they would be freed soon. And every time their predictions failed, they lost a little more hope, until one day the optimists died of broken hearts. They had great attitudes, but they failed to deal realistically with their situation. Stockdale remarked, 'You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.'"2

To express it another way, if you've been hit by a "Mack truck," all the optimism and positive thinking in and of itself won't take the pain away. One needs to be a positive realist who says to him/herself, "Yes, I've been hit by a massive problem. I've been hurt badly and am in deep pain. However, with God's help and any other help I need, I will do everything in my power to overcome my circumstances and survive triumphantly.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, help me to be a positive realist with great faith in you knowing that no matter what happens to me, you always have a lesson for me to learn and always want to use my circumstances to help me grow and become strong in faith and character. Also, please help me to see and accept my responsibility and the part I need to play in overcoming my difficulties and adverse circumstances. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. Proverbs 23:7.
2. Jim Collins, "Good to Great" (New York: Harper Business, 2001), pp. 83-85. Cited on www.sermons.com.

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All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.