Looking Beyond the Bright Side

A week ago, a friend saw me and asked about a public meeting I had attended for my town. Within the next couple years, my local transit system will implement multiple renovation projects that will inconvenience residents from my town as well as the surrounding areas. I had been telling my friend about these projects for months, and she wanted an update the day after I had attended the meeting.

I summarized the highlights of the meeting and described how I had voiced my opinions on the poor planning of the renovation. After I vented my frustrations, she pointed out that I at least had spoken up for myself. I looked at her warm smile and paused. I could tell she had good intentions to comfort me. She is like that with everyone.

I responded, “It’s okay. We don’t have to focus on the silver lining all the time.” I went on to explain that the situation was what it was. There was no need to doll it up. She then understood that she did not have to bring up the bright side in that moment.


Photo from Flickr

My friend and I are in a field in which we are constantly advising people through transitions. When people reach out to us, it is because they want our guidance as they navigate tough decisions.

In some situations, I get tempted to point out the bright side because I want to encourage them. However, I have to pick and choose when I do that because not everyone is in the head space to check it out. In certain cases, telling someone to look at the silver lining will make them madder or sadder. As I gain more experience in my field and my life, I have developed and continue to develop my discernment on these matters.

From the time we are kids, we are asked, “Is your glass half empty or half full?” We are trained at a young age to see it as half full. After all, who wants to be seen as a pessimist?

Why does it have to be “either/or”? Why can it not be “both/and”? We have the capacity to be optimists, pessimists, and realists, and we can play all of these roles simultaneously.

I am for looking at the bright side as long as we are looking beyond it as well. We need to look at the context of darkness around it and ask how that darkness got there in the first place. Only after we identify the problem can we work toward a solution. Then that is when focusing on the bright side can guide us toward progress.

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