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Chaplain's Corner + Is the Cup Half Full or Half Empty?

by Fr. George Morelli

Some people go through life looking at things around them with cynical glasses. Their outlook can range from being wary or suspicious of others' intentions and motives to perceiving the worst in mankind, sneering at others' beliefs and motives; and even scorning societal moral standards. In popular words, they see the 'cup half empty.' On the other hand, there are those who are hopeful. They look around them, and even if they see someone failing or some event at which they look askance, they, being honest and good of heart, are motivated to see the good that can come out of something inauspicious. They see the 'cup half full.' They are motivated to do what it takes to fill any apparent 'cup' that is less than full. Frequently they accomplish this by patient endurance. By contrast, however, recent behavioral research has indicated that modern society, which is increasingly demanding instantaneous information technology speed, is actually fostering 'impatient un-endurance.' The desire for instant gratification also can be seen in the upsurge of 'same day delivery'1 and recent drone-delivery proposals.

There are health risks linked to cynicism. In studies of middle aged individuals, among them Vietnam veterans, those who impute a hostile motive to others had a greater chance of developing heart disease and possibly diabetes and other diseases. The explanation of the association is that "hostile people are generally cynical and suspicious of other people, traits that lead to conflicts or confrontations."2

The value of a patient hopefulness that is nurtured by 'patient endurance' is a recurring theme in world religions. In the Hebrew Sacred Scripture we read: "He that is patient, is governed with much wisdom: but he that is impatient, exalteth his folly." (Pv 14: 29) In the Islamic Koran (2: 155-156) are these words: "Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere; . . . who say, when afflicted with calamity: "To Allah We belong, and to Him is our return". Buddhism ascribes a cognitive-emotional control nuance to patient endurance: when under attack hold fast. The Dhammapada, the collection of the sayings of Buddha (184) states: "enduring patience is the highest austerity." Likewise, in the classic Hindu text, the Tamil Veda,3 written between 200 BC and 400 AD, are these words about hope: "Smile, with patient, hopeful heart, in troublous hour; Meet and so vanquish grief; nothing hath equal power. If troubles come, laugh; there is nothing like that, to press upon and drive away sorrow." (2.1.25. 621).

The Eastern Church Father St. Isaac the Syrian4 would have us consider that true hope will include God. He tells us" "There is hope [trust and confidence] in God that comes through the faith of the heart, which is good, and which one possesses with discernment and knowledge." Following this advice we can fill our 'cup' to the brim.