If people were given choices between wealth or poverty, health or sickness, education or ignorance, can you imagine anyone not choosing to be wealthy, healthy and wise? However, life isn’t so accommodating. In fact, life is often unfair. Some people are born into poverty with health issues with little chance for a good education.
But have you noticed that some people, despite being in the worst of situations, manage to have great attitudes? Despite the world being set against them, they are not angry at the world. In fact, you would never know about their problems from their disposition. How is it that some people in this world are Eeyores and other people are Tiggers?
Remember Eeyore? He’s that blue donkey in “Winnie-the-Pooh”, technically an Equus asinus, who suffers from an outlook on life that could turn any day of sunshine into a cloudy day. Eeyore’s mood could be mistaken for depression by some, but he’s not depressed. He’s just the ultimate pessimist with a case of poor self-esteem. I suppose if I were always misplacing my tail, which is held in place by a small nail that keeps slipping out, I might not feel so good about myself either.
Eeyore is a cheerless soul. He talks like he walks, slowly and unenthusiastically. He’s never excited about anything.
Have you ever tried working with an Eeyore? It’s like trying to swim with an anvil tied around your waist. It’s like trying to walk up a hill while someone’s spraying you with a fire hose. There’s just a huge price to pay in negative energy, which drains all the good you are trying to accomplish.
Eeyore’s personality opposite is Tigger. He’s a tiger, although he’s not quite like any other tiger in the jungle. This orange tiger with black stripes has beady eyes and a long chin. His tail, unlike Eeyore’s, is always attached and used for bouncing. “Bouncy” may be the best word to sum up Tigger’s personality, too.
People who are like Tigger brighten up your day, though they tend to get on some people’s nerves, especially early in the morning before you’ve had your coffee, or whatever it is that wakes you up. These people seem to bounce out of bed with smiles on their faces and a spirit of optimism that you’d really like to pour cold water on; either that or discover the secret to their joy.
You must tip your hat to Tigger, though. His cheerful personality brings out the best in people more times than not. There’s innocence about Tigger that’ s appealing. He claims he can fly, jump farther than a kangaroo, swim, and climb trees, although he never offers any proof. He also claims that he never get lost, which he never does.
Some might say that Tigger doesn’t live in the real world. Maybe he doesn’t. Some might say that he dreams too much. Maybe he does. Perhaps that’s why he’s such a likable character. Most of us see something in Tigger that’s magnetic. We sense that the real world doesn’t have the same effect on him that it does on almost everyone else. Either that or he’s learned to react differently from most. That’s what endears him to us.
Whatever problems he has, he doesn’t allow them to become embedded in his psyche or control his mood for very long. He maintains his bounce. In fact, without his bounce, he wouldn’t be a Tigger, because “bouncing is what Tiggers do best”.
The Apostle Paul, who wrote much of’ the New Testament, was a Tigger. He once wrote to the church at Corinth: “I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” (2 Corinthians 7:4) That sounds like a Tigger.
Among the troubles Paul had were beatings, stonings, multiple shipwrecks, dangers from rivers, bandits, and his own countrymen. He labored without sleep and food and was constantly on the move. He had known the discomforts of cold and he knew what was it was like to be deprived of clothing, presumably while he was imprisoned. In addition, he also faced the pressure and concern for the churches he had started (2 Cor. 11:25-29). Yet Paul’s joy abounded.
Paul teaches that despite our circumstances we are still left with a choice in how we will respond. We might not have a choice about whether we face certain situations, but we do have a choice over the attitude with which we face them.
Victor Frankl, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, learned this in the concentration camp at Auschwitz. “Everything can be taken from man but one thing, the last of human freedom to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, p.75) Frankl, though surrounded by some of history’s worst suffering and atrocities known to humankind, chose an attitude that refused to allow his environment, a hell on earth, to dictate his attitude.
To Frankl’s list I’d like to add one more thing that cannot be taken from us: the presence of God. The Psalmist wrote: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (139:7-10).
When we choose Christ we have found a power greater than ourselves to lift us above the circumstances that seek to destroy us. This is the reason Paul could write, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 NLT). It’s the reason Paul could find joy in spite of all the hardships that came his way. It is God who gives us the strength to overcome our adversities. It’s the reason Paul could be a Tigger.
That’s my desire. I want my life to be an inspiration to others. Even during those times when I am at my weakest, I hope the joy of the Lord can be evident to others. I’ll be honest, I don’t wish for hard times to come in order to have the opportunity to prove myself in that way, but when they come, and they do for most of us, I want to be a Tigger. I want to be bouncing.
Being a Tigger doesn’t mean we should live in denial during times of grief and loss, or that we don’t feel sadness during these times and others. Some people who are joyful by nature may still battle with times of depression. It just means circumstances do not have to dictate our mood or our attitude. We can choose joy even when the circumstances are not joyful.
So every day I need to check and see if I’ve got enough bounce in my tail or if I’m just tacking my tail on. One is a sign of joy; the other could be a sign of being an Equus asinus. I resemble one of those sometimes, but I’d much rather be a Tigger.