Tim Costello on being a professional optimist

Hope is the indispensable tool for a professional optimist. But hope isn’t wishful thinking or an abstract belief that everything will turn out right. Rather it’s grounded in a faith perspective that tries to apply the lens of Jesus’ teaching to make sense of the world, read the signs of the times, and find those moments when God is ready to act through us.

We live in a troubled world. Even as progress makes life safer and more rewarding for millions, we are beset with crises of all kinds – conflict, environmental collapse, economic troubles, political division, social exclusion.

The global economy has never been more powerful, yet many feel it makes no space for them. Here in Australia we see a budget process that too easily degenerates into a fight for sectional advantage, instead of being a moral document that embodies a common commitment to human flourishing, lifting people up to live the best possible lives.

We let hubristic, radical individualism distract us from cultivating relationships.

But at home and abroad, the crisis is not primarily of resources or capacity, but of understanding.

We are not using the right tools and methods to measure and appreciate what’s happening. Too often we make bad decisions that lead to disaster because we apply the wrong scale of values.

We falsely imagine that removing an evil equates with achieving a good. But often that means treating symptoms instead of systems. Peace is more than the absence of war, and identifying what’s wrong is only the beginning of implementing a cure.

We confuse the material requirements for progress with progress itself. We think that more money, more things, are not only the means for a better life, but proof that we have attained it. We mistake wealth for sufficiency, and end up chasing consumption as a substitute for meaning and purpose.

We forget that “it’s not about me”. We let hubristic, radical individualism distract us from cultivating relationships. We chase false hopes, and become disillusioned.

Walking with Jesus and listening to him, we rediscover truths that get lost in the material world. We remember that a love-centred worldview transforms everything. If we truly hear Jesus’ words in 1 Corinthians 13 we remember that with love all is possible, without it all is empty.

We live with multiple crises but we are not helpless or hopeless. The signs of the times are also signs of hope. But we need to stop and listen to Jesus’ language of love, and only then can we find the right ‘time for every purpose’ and build on what’s best.

Image: Darren Tunnicliff on Flickr, used under CC License.