Hope and Its Alternatives

When the world says, “Give up”,
Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.”

~Author Unknown~

Hilary Clinton criticized her election opponent for offering voters false hope. I began to wonder whether my writing would be perceived as offering my readers false hope as well. In everything I write I try to help them see the effect of their thoughts and actions on others and realize that they have the option of acting in ways which will better themselves and maybe even the world community.

What are the alternatives to hope? As I see it, they consist of despair and rage. In the news, we see more dramatic suicides which to my mind indicate a growing level of despair in our society. We read almost weekly of equally dramatic killings which seem to be prompted by rage whether for religious, political or other reasons. We call those responsible sick or deeply troubled.

I’m not suggesting there is any easy answer to despair or rage. They don’t seem to be related only to life circumstances. Some people living in what to us is squalor seem somehow content. Others of apparently good circumstance can become suicidal or homicidal. So where does hope fit in?

Hope alone is not enough. Hoping things will get better does not in itself bring about a betterment of our circumstances. But what if we mean by hope the possibility of life getting better? What if we act on that hope, start listening to each other and treating each other as valuable and important? Hope gives us the possibility and acting on it makes for a better world.

I remember many years ago reading Aesop’s fable describing the argument between the Wind and the Sun about which was stronger. They decided on a contest to see which could get a man to remove his cloak. The Wind went first. The harder the Wind blew, the more tightly the man clutched his cloak. In turn, the Sun smiled in all its glory and off came the cloak. The moral was that we can get farther with kindness than with brute force. This fable has been a theme of my writing over the past few years.

I have seen the futility of rage and despair and have never seen either lead to an improvement in anyone’s life situation. The more bitter a person becomes the more difficult life is and the harder it is to make it through each day and the easier it is to give up or lash out at someone. When something happens to bring us a ray of hope, life somehow seems again possible to manage. We might think we are being realistic instead of wallowing in negative emotions. But if our sense of realism includes not being able to do anything about our lives, we are still stuck.

Action Steps

  • Is there anything in your life you think can never change?
  • If this were a friend’s problem instead of yours, what would you suggest?
  • Even if you can see some options, do you think changing is too hard?
  • Maybe you just haven’t tried the right approach yet.
  • If you’re stuck, maybe you need to humble yourself and ask for help.

Selection from my book, Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections for the Voyage, available from Amazon