I viewed an interesting show on television a while ago that involved individuals buying old, rundown homes, tearing them down almost completely to the studs, and then rebuilding them. While the process of tearing down and rebuilding is certainly an interesting one, what caught my attention was the attitude of one of the main presenters.
Each episode would usually begin by showing two presenters entering a home they had purchased. The inside of the home would be shown, and the rundown nature of the interior was always what I noticed. I would see the mess and broken walls or floors and think that I would not be inclined to purchase a home in that condition.
One of the presenters was usually focused on the work of restoring the home to a condition that would attract buyers. Attention was paid to areas of serious concern and ideas of making the home better than it was before. This seemed quite natural to me and was my general thought process as well. I would see the mess and the structural problems and immediately begin thinking about what would need to be done to fix it.
The other presenter had a much different outlook. While the first presenter was focused on the work that needed to be done, this presenter always found something they felt had value today. Sometimes it was an interesting door. Other times it was unique trim or wall paneling. There was always something of value to be found.
Once an item of value was pointed out to me, I could usually see it as well; however, I never noticed anything interesting when the home was first displayed. My mind was too caught up in whatever mess or dilapidation was evident to notice the small, interesting details that existed alongside the chaos. I was too caught up in all the work that would need to be done to notice the value that already existed.
I initially thought of this as a great example of ‘looking on the bright side’. It’s something we hear about frequently when discussing how to remain positive. ‘Look on the bright side’ in every situation to help maintain a positive outlook. In this example, the presenter was able to ‘look on the bright side’ in a ‘seek-and-find’ kind of way. In a mess of objects, see if you can find the one that contains some value.
I began to question my initial impression as I considered the attitude of the presenter. It felt like the presenter entered every home with the firm belief that there was something of value there. It wasn’t just a matter of trying to look on the bright side. It was more that their firm belief in the existence of the good allowed them to effortlessly find it.
I used to consider ‘looking on the bright side’ as the first step toward developing a more positive outlook on life. That’s a common suggestion to those who are seeking to be more positive. I think it is still a great suggestion, but I think the example of the presenter finding positive things in rundown homes has taught me that there is a step we can take before ‘looking on the bright side’ that can help us do just that. We can work on developing a belief that there always is a ‘bright side’. In other words, develop a belief that there is good to be found in every person and situation. Someone who has a strong hold on this belief will naturally find the good in everything they do without having to remember to ‘look on the bright side’.
This idea was cultivated in that excellent book, “A Little Princess” by Francis Hodgson Burnett1. The book tells a ‘riches to rags’ story of a young girl sent to a boarding school with all the money she could need sent by her father, only to have her father die suddenly and apparently leave her with nothing. She was forced to become a servant to make a living for herself in the school she once attended as a student. For an individual so accustomed to having everything just as she needed it, this was an incredibly difficult change. Many of the other servants at the school were unkind to her as they took pleasure in making the life of a former student very difficult. All her former schoolmates either ignored her or began to be unkind to her. Adding to all the new discomforts was the knowledge that she had lost her father which is enough grief for anyone to handle on its own. She had always been a pleasant and positive child and the new very difficult circumstances deeply affected her.
After a period of time in her new life, she was able to reconcile with an old friend and begin to have a conversation about what had happened to her. She made this interesting statement about her trials, “You see, now that trials have come, they have shown that I am not a nice child. I was afraid they would. Perhaps that is what they were sent for.” (pg. 129). Her friend responded confidently with, “I don’t see any good in them.” I think most of us would have that response. What possible good could come to a child from trials like that? As the young girl tried to make sense of that statement, she said slowly, “But I suppose there might be good in things, even if we don’t see it.”
That was a turning point in her life. Her circumstances did not change immediately, but she was able to bear the trials she had with more patience and optimism. And the key was believing that “there might be good in things, even if we don’t see it.”
That is our challenge today. To not just ‘look on the bright side’ but believe that the bright side exists. We have so many opportunities today where challenges that we didn’t ask for are thrust upon us. Other people’s poor choices and negligence can cause us inconvenience, heartache, or serious pain. Through all of that, we can carry a belief that there is good in things, “…even if we don’t see it.” If we can carry the belief in the hidden good, two things will happen. We will be able to bear the trials with patience and optimism, and our belief in the existence of the good will help it to become visible. You cannot find the antique door in the run down home unless you walk in, and you may not walk in unless you believe there is good there. The good in troubling circumstances or challenging relationships may not always be clearly evident, but it exists. Let us believe in the hidden good and allow that belief to change not only our own lives, but the lives of those around us.
At Believe, we are working to change the world, for good. We are a community of people who are willing to work and help another. We would love to have you join us. The world may never be the same.
1Burnett, Francis Hodgson. (1992). A Little Princess. HarperCollins.