If you have not seen the movie Polyanna with Haley Mills and Richard Egan, I recommend it highly. It is a children’s movie adapted from the book of the same title by Eleanor H. Porter. It is entertaining and moving. Polyanna is an orphan who goes to live with a wealthy aunt. Her life has been very difficult and yet she has adopted an attitude of gratitude and positivity that is her strength, and far from annoying, becomes inspirational to all who know her.
The word Polyanna has since been used as an adjective to describe unrealistic, starry-eyed idealism. Toxic positivity is a more modern and extreme concept today, purposely ignoring the actual distress of what another is going through. It is more dismissive than just a lack of social grace. I propose that ignorant bliss and the slang, synonymous interpretation of Polyanna is at one end of a positive philosophy, and toxic positivity is at the other. Both are extremes. At the center is a more balanced state, the actual example of the character Polyanna, and perhaps it is very much needed at this time.
I feel immensely blessed by friends from so many different walks of life. Rather than surround myself only with those who adhere to my beliefs, I am challenged by friends who have different theologies, philosophies and world views. Throughout the political ping-pong match of the last few decades in the United States I have witnessed a similar back-and-forth of reactions by those who hold one view or another. My prayer has been in each instance that hearts will remain hopeful, wills determined, anger channeled constructively, and heads cool. For those who are relieved or exuberant with various changes, I hope that they have compassion, not contempt, for those who feel the opposite.
In the news and on social media we see too many instances of rudeness and hatred. The constant presence of negativity on our televisions, computers and hand-held devices does great damage–if we let it. Fake news, strawman arguments and false narratives abound. If evil has a persona then its greatest tactic is to divide, then stand back and watch us destroy each other.
We can resist. We can strive to maintain peace and hope in our homes and communities. We can be more like Polyanna and inspirational, historical figures who despite poor odds and circumstances worked steadfastly, lovingly and peacefully for the good of others.