We live in a social-media obsessed culture filled with people who crave attention and acceptance. According to Social Media Today, the average person spends close to two hours daily on social media, which over a lifetime ends up being five years and four months. There is often a “Keeping up with the Jonses,” mentality or that everything is perfect, which causes people to use filters and edit photos so that they have created a social media profile that is vastly different than their true life. The reality is that many people struggle with feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety and often seek a way of escape through medication or technology.
Author and pastor, Ben Courson has endured similar struggles. When he was a child, Courson’s teenage sister died in a car accident. His brother, who is married with children, is currently fighting terminal cancer. Even Courson has battled debilitating depression and a time when he considered suicide. In his new book, Optimisfits: Ignighting a Fierce Rebellion Against Hopelessness, Courson offers an unbridled enthusiasm in the belief that we were created to “stand out,” not fit in, and embrace life with wild abandon by living outside a redundant, boring and conformist life.
In the book, Courson shares how to battle negativity.
“The only way to do battle with debilitating pessimism is to embrace a fanatical optimism. When you can be absurdly optimistic in the face of all the things that seem to be arrayed against you, you take away all their power to control your emotions, your decisions, and your sense of happiness. In the face of everything that might try to bring us down, we can be optimists. Not people who approach life with an empty, plastic smile, but who make a choice to be happy in the face of life’s pain. We can turn situations that are painful into painfuel, driving us onward to our destiny. We don’t react to hardship, we respond to hardship. We are possessed of a kind of cheerful stoicism, with a strength that moves heaven and earth.”
According to Courson, an “Optimisfit”will possess an extreme and contagious optimism that stands against religious labels and embrace God’s greatest blessings even during life’s darkest moments. Being an “optimisfit” is not about positive or wishful thinking but a mentality that transcends the church optimism and the atheist pessimism by acting with a fearless hopefulness. As Courson reminds as an “optimisfit,” “we refuse to let the world happen to us, but we happen to the world.”
Courson reflects on the importance of doing life alongside others.
“If you are trying to got it alone, let me encourage you to find your own Squad. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes some risking, a lot of vulnerability, and putting your fear of being known aside. But you can find a better life when you pursue life with others. Jesus walked among the lilies and mustard deeds, looking up to the doves and the sparrows, and He spoke of these in His teaching. He was paying attention. He saw the whole world as a temple of God, a place where we need to remove our shoes because we are treading on holy ground.”
Count your blessings. Take time this week to do an inventory of all that you are thankful for. Write a thank you letter to God for the things he has blessed you with, a roof over your head, food to eat, and friends. Get specific. It can be helpful to think back on times that were challenging and reflect on God’s hand of provision in the midst of the struggle. This can even be a good exercise to do together with a friend over coffee, with your small group over dinner or your family. Take time to share what you are thankful for. Often times, we can get frustrated when we compare ourselves to others and what they have or what we don’t have. But developing a heart and attitude of gratitude can help combat this.
Be a voice of encouragement. There are people all around us that are struggling with self-image and self-worth. On the outside and on social media, they might appear to “have it all together.” They might even say, “That everything is going well.” Take time to really see how the friends and family around you are doing. This might take time and effort to not just ask, “How are you doing?” But asking other questions to gauge how they are doing. Ask God to show you someone in your circle of friends, co-workers or family that you can encourage this week. It might be sharing something that inspired you. It could be writing a note of an act of kindness that you saw them do. When we praise what we want to see more of, we can inspire others to be a voice of encouragement as well.
Be countercultural. Whether it is on social media or at small group, fight the urge to “be perfect,” by being authentic with those around you. It could be sharing a prayer request of what is going on in your life. It could be grabbing a coffee with a friend and sharing how you are struggling or it could be refraining from posting something on social media that gives the perception that everything is “okay,” when in fact you are hurting deep down inside.
For more on Ben Courson, visit www.bencourson.com