“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” – Proverbs 13:12, The Bible
When something we’ve hoped for has been delayed for many years, or seems a long way off, we can despair. When that which we’ve longed for comes to fruition, it is like a flourishing tree. A tree will eventually stop growing in height, while its trunk continues to expand, sprouting new branches and leaves. Much like that tree, a dream fulfilled gives joy, breathes life into us and dares us to dream even more. I believe that while our dreams or goals may be delayed, our hope doesn’t have to be.
A person without hope sees everything through a gray lens. Without hope we are unable to look beyond the present moment. Without hope we are unable to anticipate that things can be different. Hopelessness can lead to despair, which is accompanied by sickness in our hearts. Sick hearts can easily become self-centered, bitter, and angry. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “Hurt people hurt people.” A heart that is sick can cause you to lash out at others or push them away (or they might distance themselves as a result of your negative behavior). In turn, you isolate even further…where your heart becomes covered in more dust. It is easy to lose hope in today’s world. There are things which will happen in our lives and in our world for which we can find no human explanation.
So how do we cultivate hope? Practicing gratitude is one way. Our hope is revived when we pause to reflect on the good things that have happened, or to remember just how far we’ve already come.
There is a difference between hope and optimism. Optimism is the belief that things will turn out well, or go our way. Hope means believing that while everything that happens to us might not be good, the experiences that challenge us are ultimately for our good and growth. Hope involves the courage to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Hope is about resilience. Optimism is found in our thoughts and our self-talk. Hope is a deeper state of being.
How have you held on to hope in times past, even when you didn’t see any outward change in your circumstances? Who can you extend hope to (an individual or a group) by encouraging them this week?
This article is intended for general education purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional counseling or medical care. If you are interested in seeking professional counseling, please call The Stone Foundation at 410-296-2004.
Elicia McIntyre, a licensed clinical social worker, and graduate of Smith College School for Social Work, has 15 years’ experience providing counseling to adults, children and families in the Baltimore-Washington metro area. She has helped clients navigate life transitions, depression, anxiety and relationship difficulties. She has spent the past 3 years traveling nationally and overseas, providing education and intervention to military service members and their families.