I paused the other day when I was reading an article that said: when we have little or no hope, we are more susceptible to believing things that are not true. We are more likely to go along with whatever is being told to us. We don’t check the facts. We don’t ask questions, think, or ponder. We don’t “test” what’s being told to us. We just go along with it.
I picked up my copy of The Book of Hope. It’s a conversation between Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams (in the same vein as The Book of Joy with the Dalai Lama and Rev. Desmond Tutu). I pondered Hope as a central tenant to the path of Jesus. Hope and Love and Faith and Joy. Recalling that in Jesus’s time, people expected his return at any moment and prepared and hoped. 2,000 years later…we still prepare, and practice, and hope.
It’s the Mystery of “already” and “not yet”. And within that lies hope. Perhaps in hope lies what we Believe in and what we believe in in the meantime. Perhaps hope is what we’re waiting for and what we’re doing and working toward in the meantime. Hope is a power to motivate us to think and plan and do and prepare.
Hope is different than optimism. Optimism is more based on happy results, whereas hope can survive and thrive within and through challenge. Hope can survive and thrive in the bleakest of times. Optimism may not include action and follow through, whereas hope relies on action and follow through.
Hope is different than Faith. Hope is humbler than faith. Faith is bigger. A belief in something bigger, beyond us, the Mystery in which we play a very small role. Hope is human action. Hope is us. It is a Belief that we have planned well and are going in the right direction. That we are on the right path when there are so many paths before us.
One of Jane Goodall’s reasons for hope is because of the human intellect. Perhaps hope and intellect are intertwined and impossible to separate. It’s hope because of the ability of our human intellect. We’re maybe not so good on the follow through, or using our intellect (or it seems that way), but we have an amazing intellect. We know better. We know better, but too often: we do it anyway or don’t bother to do it. Perhaps hope is knowing better and appropriate follow through using that intellect.
Brene Brown defines hope as an action, engagement, a verb. It is not an emotion. It is the ability to make clear (and achievable) goals, to follow the path, and believe that we are on the right path to that goal. Perhaps that all goes right along with intellect. It is the possibility that comes with our intellect and skillful use of intellect.
The interesting thing is that while hope is not an emotion, hopelessness and despair are emotions. They arise out of a lack of hope. A lack of hope is the inability to create a goal (we don’t know what we want; we can’t figure out or choose a path). There is an inability to act or follow through on that path. We don’t believe that we’re on the right path or that there even is a right path anymore. We struggle to believe that it matters. We can see this in our own lives and in the bigger picture around us.
Despair leads us the believe that when one thing goes wrong, everything is wrong, or even we are wrong (shame). For those who have not dug so deeply into words, shame and guilt are very different. Guilt is “I have done something wrong”. It can be a mistake, an oops, and an opportunity to do better in the future. Shame is “I am wrong.” Guilt comes with hope and possibility. Shame is a puzzle piece to despair and hopelessness.
If hope is necessary for seeing clearly and understanding and comprehending, we need hope to make wise choices in our lives and for the world around us. Maybe by having hope, we can slowly make a dent in the belief in falsehoods. By having hope we see clearly how our own small individual actions do create change for good (or ill). Hope makes us wiser, that’s nice. Despair makes us less wise, that’s not so nice. We need hope.
Hope is an action, which means engagement. Engagement being the opposite of disengagement. Hope is a keystone of healthy communities. People coming together to get the Good Work done. No wonder hope is such a central tenant on the path of Love.
Hope is a skill. Skills are learned, honed, and strengthened through practice. Hope is learned through setting realistic goals, following the path set out by those goals, and the belief that it is a worthy goal. On a big world scale, it probably doesn’t matter that we are there to see things through to the end. The important thing is that we are part of the path to that end that we collectively believe in. That we are a small piece in what matters most.
Without hope, we are less wise, we think things like: I won’t be around to see it, why bother? That’s not “my” problem. A lack of hope makes us small and isolated. The human intellect (a reason for hope), is the ability to see our connectedness. Connection to the the past, our ancestors and the wisdom and knowledge that has come before. It is also to see our part in a future for our children, and children’s children, and all the good stuff that we have to pass on.
Not just waiting and hoping and doing, but becoming a part of the web of goodness. To know what we are called to do and do it. To continue and follow through.
Hope as a skill is using our intellect to choose wisely and with Grace and then do the work on that path to the best of our ability. Hope is the motivating factor within which we know better. We know better and follow through. Hope is the keystone skill of trust and faith and belief. Hope is the keystone of our reciprocity and our part with one another, God, and Creation.
We miss the mark when we lose hope.