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Hope

The greatest of the three abiding virtues may be love, but the other two deserve more than just honorable mention. We don’t think much about them, until they are lost. Then crisis hits. What, exactly, are faith and hope, anyway? And when we do lose them, can we get them back?

Think you know what Hope is? Let’s check.

Hope is NOT desire. “I hope I win the lottery” is wishing, not actually hoping. Wishing, in fact, is the opposite of hope! It is ego driven, an attempt to control events. It is focused on specific objects or goals. There is no inner peace with wishing, and it is insatiable.

Hope is NOT optimism. “Things look bad right now, but they’ll get better.” An optimist tends to be arrogant, makes predictions unfounded in practicality, and is quite argumentative when anyone’s opinion differs. There is no making the best of a situation, only determination that things will change for the better later.

Despair is the total absence of hope. It is a state of profound depression, sometimes linked to specific loss. One’s grief may be so deep as to lead one to such a state. But many who despair can’t name the reason, can’t remember the origin. Despair is malignant in this sense. It spreads to all modes of thinking, of living. Counseling can certainly help, but the desperate see no point in that, or anything else. Literature gives us the character of Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh stories as an example.

Pooh Bear himself is the model of hope. Whatever happens is fine, will not destroy him, can be used for good. Pooh has a solid grasp of reality, and chooses to see events as part of life, not personal attacks or insurmountable obstacles.

So hope, defined, is “a realistic, adaptive response to stress/crisis; a patient and confident surrender to uncontrollable forces.” No predictions, no arrogance. This is how it is, and we’ll live with it. No problem.

In real life, we have Holocaust survivors as the supreme example of hope. Under the most dire circumstances, they upheld each other, cared for each other, kept their religious beliefs intact, even passing them on. Rather than be consumed by hate and revenge, they prayed for their captors as they prayed for the world. They were humble and respectful. They trusted the human spirit. They, and many others, have worked diligently – hopefully – ever since, so that such atrocities Never Again become realities.

In our daily lives we meet people who have gone through horrific experiences. But they remain at peace.

The grocer robbed on Friday reopens on Monday.

The parent of a kidnapped child gave us Amber Alerts.

Friends of someone who accomplished suicide brought us Hotlines.

Medical personnel dealing with illness and death daily provide free clinics all over the world.

Victims of domestic violence established safe houses, counselors and rehab networks.

The person living with a substance abuser remains upbeat, kind and gentle.

The poor remain faith filled and joyous, sharing what little they have.

Hope exists amid calamity. When all is good, there is no need for hope. When things are awful, “hope springs eternal.” It is healing. It comes with/gives inner peace. It rises above language, culture, finance, politics. Remember, hope is well grounded in reality. It doesn’t ignore what is going on, but chooses to respond humbly and confidently to current circumstances. To change with the times, making the most of it.

The best way to acquire this philosophy, this life style, is to find a mentor. Find a person with inner peace, and spend as much time with them as possible. Watch them cope with daily living. Bring up times that you reacted negatively to an occurrence, and ask your mentor how they would have handled it. Encourage them to talk about their own tough times, and how they had the courage to get through it all. When you face a situation, ask yourself what your mentor would do.

This won’t happen over night, mind you. Changes for the good take time. Worth it!

When people begin to refer to you as Pollyanna, naïve, or out of touch, congratulate yourself. They don’t get It, don’t have It. You made it!

Shalom.

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