Pollyanna’s Bad Rep

Some of you may remember the 1960 movie titled Pollyanna. It was based on the 1913 novel by Eleanor Porter and starred Hayley Mills. Pollyanna is an orphan who is sent to live in a small town with her grumpy aunt. Before he died, her dad taught her to be positive and always look on the bright side of things by trying to find something good even in bad situations. They called it the Glad Game. Even if you haven’t seen the movie or read the books, you are probably familiar with how the name Pollyanna has been used as a negative descriptor of someone who is too positive and cheerful and refuses to accept reality.

I read the books (the sequel is called Pollyanna Grows Up) a few years ago and was struck by how many times this little girl extended grace to the people of the town, to the point of transforming the dispirited New England town into a pleasant place to live. Rather than denying reality and living in a happy bubble, Pollyanna’s “sunny personality and sincere, sympathetic soul” (Wikipedia) personified the biblical principle found in Philippians 4:8, where we are told to think on good and beautiful things. Another biblical exhortation she exemplified is to be cheerful at all times (2 Corinthians 13-11-13 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, MSG). Proverbs 17:22 says a cheerful heart is good medicine.  

When she was mistreated and put down, Pollyanna cheerfully showed grace to others, without letting the negative attitudes she encountered pull her down. If I could always be like this, as she was: “Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God” (Philippians 2:14-15, MSG), I would happily take being called a Pollyanna as a high compliment.

Author: ttkach

Writer, cyclist, paper-crafter, mom, gardener.

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