“This has restored my faith in humanity.” Every time I hear this expression it makes my eyebrows crinkle.
I realize it’s an expression used to emphasize how good something is, usually referring to good deeds and acts of kindness or bravery. There’s no question this phrase adds drama, but what it implies is that the human race - the totality of our human existence - has otherwise gone to hell in a hand basket.
There's no denying people do bad things, individually and collectively. Sometimes unimaginable, heinous things. It's happened since the beginning of time, and I suspect always will, but I believe the good FAR outnumbers the bad.
Of course, if we're looking to the news stations to give us an accurate reading on the balance of the good and bad on any given day, the state of the world could appear pretty grim. Our news sources are dedicated, maybe even mandated, to find and report what's bad.
I say, whatever you look for, you'll find.
Remember when you bought a new car, and suddenly you saw that same make and model everywhere? The truth is, those cars have always been there, you just didn't notice them until they became important to you. Now you can't NOT see them.
The same is true with respect to our worldview. If our core belief is that there's more bad than good happening out there, we'll see bad everywhere. At every turn we'll find evidence to support that belief. It works the other way too. If our core belief is that there's more good than bad, we'll also see evidence to support that belief.
One of my favourite authors, Shawn Achor, who has spent much of his career at Harvard as a Happiness Researcher (okay, how do I get that gig?) reports, “We already know through research that watching three minutes of negative news in the morning affects our day immediately, but six to eight hours later we’re 27% more likely to report that we’re having a negative day.”
So, if this is true, could the opposite also be true? If we spend three minutes a day in gratitude, exposing ourselves to the good things that are happening in our world, would we be 27% more likely to report that we’re having a good day? The answer is yes. Just two or three minutes of time spent focused on the positive each day is transformative in the very best of ways.
This is not to suggest we turn a blind eye to the bad, that’s what Shawn calls irrational optimism. “We don’t change the things we need to change in this world if we sugarcoat the discrimination, violence and inequalities we see in our world. Rational optimism doesn’t start with rose-coloured glasses, it starts with a realistic assessment of the present.” However, if the bad is getting the lion's share of our attention we would most certainly be at risk of losing our faith...on so many levels.
At the core of Celebrate What's Right with the World is the idea of turning more of our attention to the good. For more than three decades, Dewitt has encouraged hundreds of thousands of us to consciously seek what's right with our world, and the world around us. And the more we look, the more we find it, everywhere.
May I suggest that if we're going to use the 'faith in humanity' expression that we tweak it a little. Instead of saying a good thing has "RESTORED my faith in humanity", how about instead we say, "This VALIDATES my faith in humanity" or "This SUPPORTS my faith in humanity", or any other word that suggests our faith is still very much intact.
"What we’re finding," says Shawn, "is that it’s not the reality that shapes us, it’s the lens with which we view reality that changes our experience of it." Looking for the good doesn’t stop us from changing our world for the better, instead it gives us a belief that change is actually possible.
We'll all have our faith shaken from time to time, but let's pinky swear with each other to not lose it. The world needs more yay-sayers than nay-sayers.