Hope is an Inside-Out Matter

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This week, we’ll re-consider a subject I’ve written about in the past and will continue to explore, especially during such a challenging time as we are living—a time when many have been pressed to their limits and beyond them. Yet, this is not a time for despair. Quite the contrary.

With clear and open eyes, let’s look once again at the nature of hope and where to find it.

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This week’s consideration may be a bit briefer than most, yet I trust that it will help you set the wheels of your own awareness into motion regarding so pivotal a subject. As old as humanity itself, hope is one of our perennial considerations.

Because there so many are more sources about hope than time or space permits, allow me to cite only a few foundational ones as we begin.

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Like others before and after him, the German statesman and writer, Goethe (Gur’-ta), frequently wrote about hope, saying that “Those who hope for no other life are dead even for this,” and “We always hope, and in all things it is better to hope than to despair,” and “Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it.”

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Fully aware of what he was facing as he unrelentingly advocated for social justice in America, Martin Luther King wrote, “We must accept infinite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope,” and that “Everything that is done in this world is done by hope.”

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More recently, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama has written, “There is a saying in Tibetan: ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.”

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In her book, Becoming Wise, Krista Tippett distinguishes between optimism and hope. To her, the former is a focus on the good while the latter is view toward the future. She adds that while optimism is undoubtedly important, hope is stronger of the two. It “has nothing to do with wishing,” she writes, but lives practically and with its feet on the ground in a world of real considerations.

I couldn’t agree more. For years, I’ve held that while other people or outer events may greatly inspire us, hope is an internal matter. As such, it is to be either dismissed or self-bestowed. Like Tippett, I know that hope is an intentional, pragmatic choice we make as we move through the world exactly as it is. You may be aware of the Serenity Prayer, which speaks to accepting the what cannot be changed while taking active steps toward what can be changed.

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When you stop to think about it, a pair of birds building a nest is a sign of hope. While I’m careful not to ascribe human thought or emotions to animals, the nest building behavior is an innate and forward-looking thing. It is a purposefully constructed embrace from which the next generation will emerge.


 photo: Scott Lennox


I can remember hearing the hearing the statement, “If you have troubles, keep them to yourself, I have enough of my own. But if you have hope, bring it to me!”

The truth is, hope is not to be found outside us and cannot be delivered to us by someone else. We find it inside ourselves as we consciously shape our thoughts and attitudes. We engage with it when we open our eyes and our minds, and then move forward as best we can in any given moment.

You can watch hope emerge naturally and organically each time you consciously surrender to who you really are and to what you have within you as part of the miraculous human family. It will radiate in you and then out from you as you become aware that you already have within you everything you need to respond to life in a meaningful way, regardless of what’s happening.

So, if you need to take a break from the world, take it. If you need to take a break from the people around you or from yourself, take it. When you re-engage, it might be good to give real consideration to what truly matters and to the hope that is always resident inside you.

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That takes us to this week’s Beautiful Questions. There are five of them.

One: Can you remember a time when things seemed overwhelming or hopeless and yet, you were able to keep going?

Two: What was it within you that made forward movement possible?

Three: What do you truly know about your own strength, capacity, resilience, persistence, faith, abilities, or inner resources that enable you to keep going when you choose to set those things into motion? [ repeated ]

Four: When you stop and take a pragmatic look forward, even in the short view, what do you see that isn’t colored, distorted, or darkened by social media or other external sources? [ repeated ]

Five: Without editing or holding back, what do you want for yourself as you move forward?

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These can be liberating questions as you ponder them. Write and tell me what comes of your consideration. And thank you for being part of the Hope that is alive in the world, right this moment.

As I say each week,
My Light with your Light

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