Monday, May 5, 2008

"Pessimists do not contribute, unbelievers do not create, doubters do not achieve"

The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. 


There's something about our society that has embraced a culture of complaining. And you can't very well complain about the amount of complaining that's going around either. All in all, I've realized that I'm a lot happier when I don't complain so much. And along the same lines, I'm happier when I stop looking for things to criticize, and enjoy more of the simple goodness of life. I suppose that since the onset of reality tv and judging shows it's become more popular to critique every little thing about every little performance, and that's probably carried over into our lives. (For the record, I enjoy American Idol.) It happens in regards to our country, our Church, and it's obviously one of the greatest dangers to a marriage.

I really feel grateful that among other things the Spirit has taught me since Thomas S. Monson became the prophet is that I feel his ministry is like an invitation to step back and enjoy the simple things in life. It's like an invitation to simply serve like Christ would serve, to never postpone a prompting, and to be happy with the things that are right there in front of you--on the surface--that bring happiness and that have always been right. If I'm being honest, I felt for a short time like I was going to be missing out on deep doctrine, or that I was just going to keep hearing stories or things I'd already heard Monson say before. I'm so grateful that I've had a change of heart on that. I don't feel that way anymore. Instead it's been really good for me to simply take a step back and appreciate the little things more--the things that really matter the most and that really bring us happiness. I've noticed my love for the prophet grow too. In short, I feel a lot happier.

The same goes for searching for things to criticize in the Church's history. President Hinckley spoke well when he said: "My plea is that as we continue our search for truth, particularly we of the Church, that we look for strength and goodness rather than weakness and failings in those who did so great a work in their time. We recognize that our forefathers were human. They doubtless made mistakes. Some of them acknowledged making mistakes. But the mistakes were minor when compared with the marvelous work which they accomplished. To highlight mistakes and cover over the greater good is to draw a caricature. Caricatures are amusing, but they are often ugly and dishonest. A man may have a wart on his cheek and still have a face of beauty and strength, but if the wart is over emphasized in comparison to his other features, the portrait is lacking in integrity. There was only one perfect man who ever walked the earth. The Lord has used imperfect people in the process of building his perfect society. If some of them occasionally stumbled, or if their characters may have been slightly flawed in one way or another, the wonder is the greater that they accomplished so much." ("The Continuing Search for Truth")

It gets a little discouraging to hear so much criticism so much of the time. We hear it all the time in the news about our own country. Glen Beck recently wrote: "We're constantly reminded about America's faults and flaws, but what about our achievements? If you want to teach our kids about Vietnam, that's fine, but you better also teach them about World War II. And if you want to talk about our wars, you better also talk about our welfare. America is one of the most charitable countries in the history of the world, yet our mistakes are always glorified far more than our generosity. That needs to be reversed." (Glen Beck: "America needs a 12 step program")

I feel happy that I've finally come to my own little oasis of understanding and contentment in the midst of a desert of criticism. (And it really is like a desert wasteland--nothing productive grows out of it.) President Hinckley went on to describe how we can each come to our own little oasis of which I speak. "I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and problems of life, and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life we concentrate on the positive. I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we halt the sounds of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort... What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that spreads through our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and was inclined to speak critically of people or events, my father would say: 'Pessimists do not contribute, unbelievers do not create, doubters do not achieve'." ("The Continuing Search for Truth")

It seems like sometimes we hold our own fellow members to a higher standard and forget to treat them with as much love, care, and neighborliness that we would those not of our faith. It’s probably because we depend on each other so much in our various callings for things to get done–but since there are no “professionals”–we can’t let ourselves get too judgmental.

"To live continually in thoughts of ill will, cynicism, suspicion, and envy, is to be in a self-made prison hole. But to think well of all, to be cheerful with all, to patiently learn to find the good in all-such unselfish thoughts are the very portals of heaven; and to dwell day by day in thoughts of peace toward every creature will bring abounding peace to their possessor" (James Allen--"As A Man Thinketh")

A good reminder for all of us.


Geoff J said...

"Pessimists do not contribute, unbelievers do not create, doubters do not achieve"

While this has a catchy ring to it I am afraid that it is thrice false.

So the next question is what happens to nitpickers and contrarians like me? (grin)

Clean Cut said...

I suppose we're all a little nitpicky and contrarian from time to time. At least most of us are pessimistic, unbelieving, and doubting in some degree at sometimes in our lives. Yet we can all still contribute, create, and achieve to some degree as well. So I think I understand what you're saying. It's not a superlative statement. But in the gospel realm, it's a little more true. "Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief". Our quest is to cast aside those doubts and move forward in faith. Really, it's not about not having any doubts--it's all about having more faith.

SilverRain said...

Whether or not you are nitpicking and contrary, Geoff, is not for me to say, but it is fairly clear what happens to those who indulge in fault-finding.

Thanks for this post, CC!

Stephanie said...

Hi Spencer,
I'm a friend of Sara's. I love your blog! After reading Elder Ballard's commencement addresses to BYU-H & BYU-I, I too, have started a blog devoted specifically to all things LDS. I hope it's ok that I've added you to my list of 'other LDS blogs and websites.' Keep up the good work!

Eric Nielson said...

Well done.

I think that in most every case pessimists do not contribute to the things they are pessimistic about (although they may in other ways). Same pattern for unbelievers and doubters.

SusieQ said...

Some great reminders. Thanks, Spencer.

Anonymous said...

Pessimism is a tempting reality for too many people. I enjoyed all of your quotes from President Hinckley... I can hear his voice in my mind saying those things.

I was delighted to hear President Monson address the subject of pressimism in his first address to entire General Conference audience last month. In searching for counsel from the prophet, I found it interesting that he pled with us all to forsake pessmism and the oft-accompanying loneliness by turning to our Heavenly Father in faith.

Geoff's statement is interesting. I wonder if he would rephrase the statement to suggest, "Pessimists contribute, unbelievers create, doubters achieve?"

I think each of those statements could be true, but I'm not sure President Hinckley was approaching the subject that way.

I think his point was to emphasize that when it comes to things of eternal worth and progress that is consciously made, those characteristics are damning - in the sense that they limit our forward motion and stymie the same in people around us.

Pessimism, unbelief, and doubt aren't the nutrients that make a good fertilizer for "soul soil."

Can they actually end in contribution, creation, and achievement? Absolutely. But more often than not, those things will be done on accident. And I think it would be near impossible for the benefits to outweigh the sum total of the negative outcomes that are just as un-noticed.

I love the post, Spencer! Good luck with school!

~ Kurt Manwaring ~

Jim said...

As one prone to be critical, especially of those that I love most, I enjoyed your remarks here- a very good reminder indeed. Often mine is the worst sort- I usually don't say or do anything to outwardly reflect the judgmental, critical thoughts that I too often have.

I believe that being critical of others is a form of hypocrisy. Like you mentioned, we sometimes hold others to a higher standard than we ourselves adhere to. It is often easy to spot sins or shortcomings in others while overlooking our own errors. It reminds me of the mote and beam- Matt. 7:3-5. Ultimately, it is pride that causes us to think and to be like this.

You are right too- this way of being robs us of happiness and joy that we would otherwise have.

Kelli W. said...

I love this post! I've been waiting and waiting for you to write a new one and I wasn't dissapointed! I can tell this comes from the heart and it touched mine. I am lucky to be married to a man who lives by this quote and I don't know that he's ever heard it before. When you base your faith and testimony in Jesus Christ, how can you be pessimistic, unbelieving or doubtful? These are not characteristics that Christ posseses. The natural man possesses them very easily, so it is all we can do to work on our weaknesses and through faith in the Lord he can make them our strengths.
I can't wait for your next post Spence! Love them!

Steve Probert said...

Spencer the post has a great feel to it. I am directed more towards living a better life with it's influence. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

i totally agree!!!