I once talked to a friend about his WhatsApp profile message which was - and I quote: ‘I look both ways before crossing a one-way street. That’s how much faith I have left in humanity.’ I asked him whether he believed in that quote; he gave a resounding YES! I tried to persuade him that we must keep our faith in humanity even amidst all negative things happening. That we attract what we believe, and the lens from which we chose to view the world will determine what we see.
To make his point, he sent me a video of a man stealing fuel from a tanker while it was in traffic at Ubungo in Dar es salaam, commenting, “this is what I just saw today and you are telling me I should have faith in humanity?” I asked him, “if you had seen someone doing something good, say helping a person in need, would you have recorded the event?” He dismissed me and asked whether I was sent straight from hell to interrogate him.
Following this incident, I recalled a section about ‘Negativity Instinct’ which I had read from a book titled Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. ‘Negativity Instinct’ is the tendency to notice the bad more than the good. Most often, we notice what is going wrong than what is going right - and this has caused many misconceptions about the world. We think that the world is getting worse, while data-based facts say that the world is actually getting better in many aspects! It makes sense that such facts may be hard to believe, but still, it depends on where one is looking. Ola Rosling - the author of the book - emphasises that things can be bad and better. Indeed, the world may be bad, but it is also better in many ways.
This thinking, choosing to also see the good in something bad, applies to many situations in life. When we want to judge a situation as being bad, it is prudent to ask if it is also better or worse than it was before. For example, if a schoolchild gets a bad grade that is better than the previous one, does he/she not deserve to be congratulated first, then encouraged to do even better?
Being cognizant of the fact that things can be both bad and better can free us from unnecessary stress and will improve our relationships. This kind of thinking also allows us to seek the good even in bad situations. Although it does not mean being oblivious to the bad. It shifts our attention to a more empowering position, which then allows us to deal with the bad situation. In addition, this thinking frees us from being quick to generalize the state of things from single instances. Bad apples don’t necessarily contaminate the other apples! The bad can be set apart and looked at as isolated cases.
The fact will remain that, despite all the bad situations, there are better situations - and they have equal magnitude in configuring our view of the world. The big challenge is that people love, and will be attracted to dramatic events. In fact, some people thrive in drama. Things that go well are often less dramatic than those that go wrong.
As such, the media, wanting the attention of the masses, seek for news and events that will satiate the need for drama that many people crave for. Bad news would often qualify as news on the media while good news of equal magnitude and impact may not. In general, refining the lens through which we view life and humanity means cleaning and shifting the lens – carefully choosing what information to consume and what not to.
Even amidst the horrifying news we see in the media every day such as, unemployment choosing not to see the good in people and in humanity more generally will not do us any better. It will only open doors to stress and depression.
Ms Kimaro writes about careers, personal growth, and issues affecting youth and women