Half Empty, or Half Full?

By Tom Wacaster

Our study of this wonderful epistle to the Philippians has provided a glimpse into the optimistic outlook of the apostle Paul. I have often pointed out that Paul was the eternal optimist, looking at the opportunities rather than the obstacles. Chapter four is saturated with phrases that focus on the apostle's optimistic outlook. Keep in mind that he was in prison when he wrote this epistle. From the depths of that prison cell he could write such words as these: "Rejoice in the Lord always" (4:4); "In nothing be anxious" (4:6a); "But I rejoice in the Lord greatly" (4:10); "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content" (4:11b); "I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me" (4:16); "But I have all things and abound" (4:18a); "And my God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (4:19). I do not think Paul was inclined to look at the glass as half empty, or half full; he only saw the glass full, and overflowing.

No doubt most of us have come across various scenarios that cause us to apply the adage that serves as the title of this week's article. Over the years I have packed, loaded, unloaded and unpacked my massive library numerous times. In addition to the several hundred books I have in my personal library, there are the dozens of boxes containing books that I have written and published. These, too, I have moved from location to location. When packing I try not to concentrate on what needs to be packed, but what has been packed. I guess the task does not seem so arduous if I look at what has been accomplished as opposed to how much remains.

I climbed on the information highway to research the phrase "half-full or half-empty." Here is what Wikipedia has: "It is a common expression, generally used rhetorically to indicate that a particular situation could be a cause for optimism (half full) or pessimism (half empty), or as a general litmus test to simply determine an individual's worldview. The purpose of the question is to demonstrate that the situation may be seen in different ways depending on one's point of view and that there may be opportunity in the situation as well as trouble. This idiom is used to explain how people perceive events and objects. Perception is unique to every individual and is simply one's interpretation of reality. The phrase 'Is the glass half empty or half full' can be referred to as a philosophical question" (Wikipedia).

I also came across some rather humorous definitions and/or applications of the phrase: "The optimist says the glass is half full; the pessimist says the glass is half empty." "The project manager says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be." "The realist says the glass contains half the required amount of liquid for it to overflow." "The cynic? He wonders who drank the other half." "The worrier frets that the remaining half will evaporate by next morning." "The fanatic thinks the glass is completely full, even though it isn't." "The entrepreneur sees the glass as undervalued by half its potential." "The computer specialist says that next year the glass capacity will double, be half the price, but cost you 50% more for me to give you the answer." Finally, here is one that might confuse you, but I thought it worth including in the list: "The algebraic simultaneous equation theorist says that if the glass is equally half full and half empty, then half full = half empty; therefore ½ x F = ½ x E; therefore (by multiplying both sides of the equation by 2) we show that F = E; i.e. Full equals Empty!" Don't lose any sleep over that one!

Now let's get down to some serious uses of the phrase. Come June 30th we will have passed the half-way mark for this year. At that point you and I will have less time remaining in the year than that which we will have spent. The sobering question is, 'How will you have you used the first half of the year?' And if how you spent the first six months is any reflection on how you will spend the next six months, what will you have accomplished when you ring in yet another year? Viewing the whole of 2020, would you say the year is half empty, or half full? Even if you have failed to use the year to the fullest potential possible; even if you have wasted much of those precious six months, it does not mean you are locked into the same misuse of what now lies before you. The weak in faith, who for one reason or another repeatedly misuse what time God has given to them, may very well look at the glass as half empty-opportunities past, possibilities squandered. The strong in faith, on the other hand, see six more months of opportunities; to them the glass is half full, awaiting year's end when we can look back on the whole of the year and, with a sense of satisfaction, bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new, with all of its opportunities and possibilities.

Let's make one more application. It has been observed that the life expectancy for those living in this 21st century is 78 years. That is remarkably close to Moses' assessment of the time that God has given to men for the probation period while upon this earth. If you are age 39 or older, you have passed the half-way mark. Now, how do you view the years that lay before you? Are you truly satisfied with how you have spent the first half of your life? Or, if you had it to do over, would you make some really important changes? Once again, the weak give up in despair, "Vanity of vanity, all is vanity." Such view life's glass as half empty. The wise will "forget the past," and determine to live his/her remaining years in service to God. One of the most wonderful promises in the Bible is that once we are determined to forget the past, repent of our failures, and move forward in faith, God also forgets. You see, beloved, God always views the glass as half full. Seems to me the faithful child of God will do the same. I don't know who wrote the following, but I think it is a fitting conclusion to this article:

I MAY NEVER SEE TOMORROW

I may never see tomorrow, there's no guarantee,
And things that happened yesterday belong to history.
I can't predict the future, I can't change the past,
I have just the present memories to treat as my last.
I must use this moment wisely, for soon it will pass away,
And be lost forever as a part of yesterday.

I must exercise compassion, help the fallen to their feet,
Be a friend unto the friendless, make their life complete.
The unkind things I do today, may never be undone,
And friendships that I fail to win, may never more be won.
I may not have another chance on bended knees to pray,
And I thank God with a humble heart for giving me this day!