I woke this morning with thoughts about idealism and realism. Why? I can’t even begin to know.  (maybe too many political ads) Any probing and dissecting of any “ism” is bound to stir up some interesting facts. It did. In reading about each, I realized that NOT considering this difference could be a problem in our world, in our relationships. It could help me to better understand those I love.

Are you an Idealist? Are you a realist? Even in the question, there is an assumption that you are one or the other. I don’t really like that, but for the sake of learning, I looked up the definition of these two isms. Do I fall into one of the categories?


1. The act or practice of envisioning things in an ideal form.

2. Pursuit of one’s ideals.

1. An inclination toward literal truth and pragmatism.
2. The representation in art or literature of objects, actions, or social conditions as they actually are, without idealization or presentation in abstract form.
It’s often noted that a person who always pursues perfection is an idealist and one who accepts life the way it is, is a realist. This is a generality, of course. The problem is obvious though. The two are complete opposites in terms of what they value. An idealist has a hard time adapting to what “is” and can’t stop obsessing on “the could/should be”. They are generally focused on change.  Things have to meet up to what seems “ideal”.  The realist is focused on the “actual” and can’t imagine the “could/should be”. They are content with life and see no point in stirring up controversy at every turn. Why waste life pursuing the impossible? I can sense the disillusionment in dealing with the opposite ism. Where is the bridge here? Both have a strong sense of being “right”. You can divide almost every argument/sensitive issue into these two mind-sets. It’s almost like a Justice-Grace war. Both have merit. Both embody truth.
Our house is made up of A LOT of idealists-dreamers, risk-takers, counter-cultural questioners, philosophical quests and discussions are a norm around here. I thought through the relationships with my children and my husband and realize that this propensity we all have toward either ism can be/is a gift. We are more comfortable in silence or arguments, rather than discussion and listening. It is easy to throw criticisms at those who think differently on a subject…ie government control and size, legislating morality, boycots, political parties, personal tastes and lifestyles, socio-economic differences…the list goes on. It’s hard for us to consider that God gave us enough individual freedom and license to have preferences. We are asked us to Love Him and Love others. The other “commands” hang on that. I’m encouraged to put the gavel down. I’m not called to war against the realist or idealists.

How about the idea of living authentic, loving lives and dousing the world with that at every turn? My guess is that doing that will make a difference; giving opportunity for dialogue. We go about it backwards. We swing fists and then try to say it’s all in love.

How does understanding idealists and realists affect our relationships? I think it helps us realize that we need the antithesis of each ism to bring balance. We end up realizing we need the others view to counter-act our own. When I don’t get the mind-set of someone else, it’s hard to listen, to consider and learn. It requires patience and time. It’s not easy.

The truth is that some idealists will change the world for the better…and some for worse.  Some realists will show us how to be content an others will be content…when they should be “storming the castle”.  Either way, my hands are coming together, clapping in amazement, that we were created so uniquely. I’m challenged to take off my fear coat, sit down and enjoy a chat with someone who has some different opinions from mine. I want to talk to them without intent to change them, but to learn from them. I may be surprised.