Cara Dillon Runyan

Gratitude for Pessimists

Every time the words exit my husband’s mouth, I begin to shake my head. “Ok,” he exhales, “Worst case scenario…” he starts and then outlines a hypothetical set of circumstances that are most certainly not the worst case scenario

As a full-time worrier and a part-time planner, I can always give him at least four other situations that would indeed be much worse than the “worst” that he comes up with. At least. Sometimes more, depending on how reliably optimistic he’s being that day. 

Sometimes we go through this exercise when something unexpected—like a home repair or a car wreck—has come into our lives and we’re trying to form a plan together. Other times, we try to use it as a fear-debunking strategy. What if that does happen? What if you do get rejected? What if you do lose it on that coworker? What is the worst that’s going to happen?

Even then, somehow my worst-case-scenario generator always ends up with me being dead somehow, either from starvation or humiliation and contracting a plague—if one happens to be going around. At least that’s a genuinely worst case scenario—unless you begin considering how individuals could also begin erecting monuments to your failures after your death, but I digress. 

I’ve found only one redeeming quality that aligns with this uncanny ability to spiral into ironically devastating situations: I can see clearly all of the pain thats I’ve been protected from thus far in life. 

It’s easy to thank God for the gifts in front of us, the way kids pray; “God, thank you for the trees and the grass and the carpet and the table and chairs and my dog Frank and the crayons and for cookies. Amen.” 

We often fail to remember that whatever we have been spared from is as good a gift as one we’ve received. 

God, thank you for keeping me from success when I wasn’t ready for it.

God, thank you for the rejection from that job where the company was later caught in unethical practices. 

God, thank you for my weird family instead of some more normal one that I wouldn’t have fit into. 

God, thank you for not letting me marry that boyfriend whom I would have undoubtedly killed, gone to jail, and been on Dateline for it. 

Common grace is the fact that each of us has survived our stupid decisions and ridiculous ideas to end up with as much good as we currently have—without any thing else added. Don’t wait for more to be grateful. Take a dose of pessimism with your gratitude and remember, it could be so much worse. 

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