Hope in a Fretful Time
Brian Clemmons, M.Ed, LPC
“Hope is being able to see that there is light in spite of all of the darkness.” -Desmond Tutu
“Hope is a passion for the possible.” -Soren Kirkeegard
“Hope is the pillar that holds up the world. Hope is the dream of a waking man.” -Pliny the Elder
My favorite quote on hope is Hebrews 11:1- “Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for, the absolute conviction that there are realities you have never seen”.
Indeed, the concept of hope has daunted and encouraged humankind over the years.
In my literature review to create this blog, I found numerous references to Pandora of Greek mythology. As I am more than a few years removed from my last literature course, I reread it for a refresher. I learned that the jar that Pandora opened and the illnesses and hardships which were released were to teach people that they were not to disobey the gods. But Zeus also put hope in the jar. As the story goes, Pandora was scared at all of the troubles which she had freed from the jar and closed the jar before hope could come out. Zeus, being merciful, had put hope on the bottom of the jar so that it would comfort people after they experienced the wrath of the jar’s contents.
A basic definition of hope could be “ An emotional state that promotes the belief in a positive outcome”, according to Suzanne Phillips in Psychology Today (October 31, 2020).
Charles Snyder in his book “The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get There From Here” takes defining hope a step further by stating that hope is an ability to engage in positive goal directed thinking made up of agency (will power) and pathways (way power). Will power added to way power equals hope! In other words, hope is the sum of our desire to do and the confidence that we can do.
Behavioral scientists measure hope through such instruments as The Beck Hopelessness Scale. This is a 20-item, true/false measure of three parts of hopelessness: feelings about the future, expectations, and loss of motivation. Charles Snyder developed the Hope Scale- 12 items which in part measure a person’s agency and pathways. There are certainly other measures of hope but these are two prominent ones.
I stumbled upon a fact that said the word hope is found 58 times in the New Testament and 75 times in the Old Testament. This is according to Eliott in her work Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Hope.
It is reasonable and even wise to examine the promises contained in the Scriptures when consulting the Bible about hope. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
In this verse we may rest easy in that the Lord has a plan for us and it is to increase us, keep us safe, give us hope and give us a future. This is a confidence in God’s provision that can preempt anxiety if we will but let it.
Paul writes to the church in Rome in Romans 5:2-5: “ Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Maintaining and building hope can be hard work! It is easy to be distracted and discouraged by life and the world. If we could only increase our will power to “be and do” what we wanted and our confidence in our ability to successfully progress towards these goals! Well, we can help these processes along by increasing the following:
Human Connections– Not facebook friends or LinkedIn contacts, but legitimate people who know you, know what your life is like and with whom you see and have regular contact. These are the people you would allow to house sit. They are the ones that show up when you are sick or struggling. Cling to these folks and if you don’t have many, work on building up this network in your life.
Cognitive Behavioral Self Talk- Our conscious and unconscious internal dialogue can be helpful or detrimental. When we give ourselves repeated messages that we can’t do things, are not good enough, etc, we tend to believe ourselves. Self talk should be authentic and accurate. Changing some statements to “I have not done this yet but I am working on it” instead of “ I will never be able to do this” will go a long way to improving confidence and success.
Spiritual Development– Developing and growing your spirituality through obedience to your religion’s beliefs, reading it’s scriptures, prayer, and lifestyle choices that fit with your religion’s values will all increase your appreciation for something larger than yourself.
There are many other strategies to building hope and I encourage you to find some that work for you. A life without hope is truly more difficult and less enjoyable than a life with hope.