There’s much that’s not right in our world, and many who are eager to point out everything that’s wrong. Ominous predictions come from politicians and pundits, journalists and clergy, and even friends and neighbors. It is wearying and tiresome. Eventually it becomes overwhelming. Then waking in the morning and starting another day begins feeling like a useless endeavor. If everything is so bad and getting worse, what’s the point?
Not too long ago we heard much talk about hope. However, we rarely hear that word anymore without “dashed” or “misbegotten” preceding it. So what happened to our hope? Where did it go? Why can’t we seem to find it again?
Perhaps part of the problem comes from semantics. A friend recently reminded me that the word “hope” is often confused for the word “wish.” A wish is a desire for something we don’t have, but usually involves magical thinking. If we want it badly enough, it will somehow manifest itself or be provided by some supernatural being, force, or process. So we focus on our desired outcome and wait.
Hope also involves a desire for something we don’t have, but it offers possibility rather than magical thinking. Hopeful people seek insights and opportunities as they attempt to create solutions or discover alternatives. They don’t focus on a single outcome, wait for it to manifest, and then give up when it doesn’t. Instead, they do whatever is ahead of them with a firm belief that new possibilities will appear and then follow those possibilities in whatever direction they lead toward the desired outcome.
Those who foster hope in others instill a sense of trust and confidence. If all we’re told is how awful the world is and how much worse it is becoming, it’s difficult to have any hope. Yet if we’re told that someone believes in us and trusts us to find solutions and alternatives, a whole array of possibilities becomes available.
Will all of those possibilities turn out well? Of course not! But the successful ones won’t be discovered by merely bemoaning our hopeless situation and waiting for wishes to come true.