Sometimes positive psychology can get a bit overly passive and even submissive.
When I was a kid, like most kids, I was often not so smart. Once in junior high school, there were several meatheads pushing a classmate of mine around in the parking lot. They were Seniors, and the guys who terrorized most of the students and some of the teachers.
Without considering the foolishness of my actions, I ran over and told them to knock it off and go pick on someone their own size, to which they responded, “Oh really twerp? That’d be you?” I remember those words vividly, because they were the final i heard before unconsciousness.
When I awoke in the infirmary, the nurse asked me what had happened since a student had found me lying on the parking lot. I shook my painful head and lied that I didn’t remember.
When my step-father arrived, and saw me, he was furious. He dropped me at home and with my grandmother to watch over me, and he returned to work.
She asked what happened, and I told her the story, and how I now was afraid of what would happen when I saw the seniors again. She said to me, “Sometimes God knocks you down, not to teach you submission, but to show you your courage; not to see if you’ll stay down, but if you’ll get back up.”
Beginning to cry, I protested that I didn’t want to get beat up again, and that there’s no way I could possible win. Putting her hand on my head and hugging me she comforted, “Nobody wants problems. But when they happen, showing yourself that you’re willing to lose a fight rather than lose your principles is the biggest victory.”
I saw those kids again, and got pummeled several more times. Never won, obviously. But the classmate who had originally been tormented by them, once came to me in private and said, “Sorry they got you when you said something to make them stop. Why’d you do that?”
I replied that he’d do the same for me if he had seen them torturing me. And his words have rung in my ears since, “Not until I saw you stand up to them, I wouldn’t have. Maybe now I would.”
Maybe that’s why we are given opportunities which don’t have any possible immediate success: because the impact of being willing to lose on principle is a victory for our virtue.