Hope, without action, is meaningless. Unless you are willing to take the necessary steps to realize that hope, it is merely wishful thinking. Hope is so ingrained in our culture that we are all familiar with sayings such as, “All we have is hope.” “When all else is lost, hold on to your hope.” Or “Don’t give up hope.” Many people honestly believe that without hope, life is bereft of all meaning or purpose.
Hope is not tangible. It cannot be seen, felt, tasted, or touched. It is a desire for a future positive event or to steer away from a future negative event. This powerful option enables us to stay the course and abandon any unrealistic ideas. Faith, however, is different. It a belief based upon something beyond our understanding or control.
Hope is a universally available emotion. It makes no distinction between the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, the religious and the irreligious, the young and the old. It serves no one master. All who enlist its ability to lessen human suffering have a distinct advantage.
A prizefighter, preparing to enter the ring for an important step up in his pugilistic career, was observed by a passing reporter to be kneeling and praying for a win. The reported admonished him by shouting, “Hey, prayer only helps if you can fight!” Again, hope always needs to be reinforced by some form of assertive effort.
A century ago, people who suffered from kidney failure hoped for a cure. Their hopes were realized in future years by the invention of dialysis. The hopes of cardiac patients also benefitted from the heart bypass or transplant surgery. Even amputees from WWII, who hoped to one day walk again, did so as a result of some ingenious prostheses. Many things for which people hope defy traditional logic or conventional medical opinion. When they happen, they are perceived as miracles.
While not all hopes are acknowledged, the act of hoping makes a hopeful person feel less hopeless. Perfectly normal people, at times of great mental or physical stress, experience a feeling of hopelessness. Its degree and frequency is what determines the need for professional medical intervention.
Instead of taking an antidepressant, one way of coping with hopelessness is to challenge your darkest beliefs. Since you are the creator of those negative beliefs, you can uncreate them. Another technique is to alter your facial expression. Get rid of a frown and put on a smile. Change a bent over posture to an upright one.
The famous philosopher, René Descartes, wrote, “I think, therefore I am.” It involves re-patterning certain perceptions - looking at them differently.
This raises an interesting question: Is there usually a difference between the facial expression of a hopeful person and one who feels hopeless? There is a legend about Leonardo Da Vinci’s search for a suitable figure to model for the character of Jesus in his painting of the Last Supper. He finally found a handsome young man to represent the face of Jesus.
Several years later, he needed someone to model for the character of Judas. He was told that there was a despicable and hateful-looking prisoner in a nearby prison. Da Vinci went to the prison and began painting him as Judas. The two never spoke until he completed the painting and was preparing to leave. At that moment, the prisoner asked Da Vinci, “Do you know who I am?” Da Vinci answered, “Of course not. I just met you a few months ago when I began the painting.” The prisoner replied, “I am the same man you painted as Jesus.” Ironically, Da Vinci failed to realize that the man he was painting posed for both Jesus and Judas.
The words of G. K. Chesterton are a fitting ending to this article on hope: “Love the unlovable, forgive the unpardonable, believe the unbelievable, and hope when everything seems hopeless.”
- Professor Eisenberg was born in New York City and now lives in Belleair Bluffs. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II. His career consisted of teaching interpersonal/intercultural communication, public speaking, organizational communication, nonverbal communication, group dynamics, and persuasion at four major universities including Pace University and Manhattanville College in New York. His publications include fifteen textbooks on various aspects of communication. Send comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.