“In this life we cannot do great things, we can only do small things with great love” – St. Mother Teresa
All of us who are alive have our distinct dreams, goals and ideals; and we are striving for something better than is currently available and a better life. In order to achieve these dreams, goals and ideals, hope is crucial. Hope is what motivates us to plan and to keep us going towards our dream even amidst some hard times, and to succeed. Otherwise, without hope our lives would be empty and pointless.
And yet there are many people living in a state of hopelessness. There are people who feel as if they have reached the end of the road, there’s nowhere else to run to, and no reason to move. The result of this hopelessness is self-loathing, self-hatred, suicide, drug abuse, depression, work failure, and sleep deprivation, and a lack of motivation and desire to live.
This article discusses hope; its definition, its importance in our lives, the causes of hopelessness, and the reasons why we should keep hope alive in our lives and even spread it to others.
Dictionaries define hope as “A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” Unlike training, self-esteem, confidence, and good mood which are essential for success, hope gives us the will to adopt pathways and strategies that will help us to overcome obstacles and achieve what may otherwise seem improbable. Hope makes us believe in positive future outcomes, such as “I shall be the best performer academically” or “I shall win this race”.
Hope is, therefore, not just optimism, which is a general positive anticipation for future goals. Hope is both the belief in a better future and the personal action and control that is required to make it happen. Hope is not faith, which is believing and trusting in something that you cannot see. Hope comes before faith. Hope makes us imagine that there is something that we can believe and trust in; even if we think it is not achievable. Without hope, there can be no faith. Hope gives us faith which helps us to pursue our goals.
In contrast, hopelessness is when we lose belief that things can be better; when we feel like giving up, when we despair, when we do not believe in our own capacity to obtain the kind of future we want, when we quit just because we have failed and we do not want to try another time, when we act helpless and feel as if we have lost control to others and there is nothing we can do about it. People who lack hope opt for easy tasks that do not offer a challenge or opportunity for growth.
People may become hopeless because they feel alienated, forsaken or totally abandoned. Examples are members of under-privileged minority groups for whom opportunities who have no growth or positive role models, and therefore feel lonely, uninspired, and worthless. They may also become hopeless because they feel powerless, oppressed, and deficient, especially among the poor as well as those struggling with severe physical handicaps.
People may become hopeless because they feel doomed, as if their life is over, that their death is imminent, especially for those people who are aged and those diagnosed with devastating, debilitating illnesses; Or because they feel as if they are in captivity, whether in physical prisons or self-imprisonment when they feel tied up in a bad relationship which they cannot leave.
People may become hopeless because they feel helpless, such as when they are trapped in natural or man-made calamities like floods, landslides or violent conflicts; or they may feel unable to cope with an overwhelming situation such as unemployment or loss of a job, inadequate finances, and loss of loved ones through death, divorce or separation.
But even in the face of all the hopelessness, it is important to have hope in life because hope allows us to approach problems with a mindset and a plan which, if implemented, increases the chances that we will accomplish our goals. Hope gives us an assurance and lets us to see what could be. It gives us faith and forces us to keep walking, searching, longing, and loving. Hope gives drowning people the will to stay afloat long enough to find a log to grab onto until a life-saver shows up. Hope gives someone with a serious illness the ability not to succumb until the healing process is activated. Hope that our kids will do well in life motivates us to meet their daily needs. Hope that our team will win the crucial game keeps us glued watching till the game ends. Hope keeps us excited about ‘what’s next’, which in turn makes us invest more in our daily life because we can see beyond current challenges.
We can overcome hopelessness by visioning the possibility, believing in that possibility and pursuing the path to that possibility with commitment, passion and intention to have it become a reality. That feeling that we are doomed, helpless or captive can be overcome by stopping to jump to conclusions. If it is a medical or psychiatric diagnosis, for example, we can decide to learn more about it and it may surprise us that there is a route that others have followed in the past and have lived longer than predicted. The feeling of powerlessness, oppression and limitedness can be overcome by appreciating our talents, gifts and our past personal success stories; by stopping comparing ourselves to others; and by stopping personalization and self-blame.
Once we have overcome our own hopelessness, we can decide to spread hope around by providing support to others, and by giving an assurance to others that things are not as bad as they seem and they will get better. It would be helpful to give the hopeless examples of role-models and mutual friends who were in the same place but whose lives turned around because they embraced the will, the inspiration, the imagination and determination that their goals will be achieved, and developed strategies and pathways that led them to their goals.
In conclusion, goals, talent, skill, ability, self-efficacy, optimism, passion, inspiration will not get us there until we embrace hope. Hope keeps our minds at ease, lowers stress and improves physical health, because it tells us that all will be well if we keep on moving forward. It inspires us to search for the silver lining that will transform adversity or misfortune into a blessing.
Let’s learn to keep our own hope alive and to show and share it with the hopeless. We can help them to overcome alienation, forsakenness and lack of inspiration by showing them that they are not alone, by showing them that we care, and by giving them hope-promoting responses.
Please click here and listen to this song by David Ekene Daniel which is the one that inspired me to write this article.