Saturday, November 29, 2014

Four Strategies for Building Hope

Developing Hope

Following a night of rioting homes and businesses are destroyed. Anxiety reigns supreme as those motivated by anger and revenge destroy hopes and dreams. Leaders are needed to restore hope. Rebuilding cities and homes offers hope. Psychotherapists help people rebuild their lives. Spiritual and secular leaders alike offer people hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Without hope life is reduced to mere existence.

Hope springs eternal. Hope is a future-oriented motivation. Hope involves our thoughts, feelings, and actions. And for most people, hope is also spiritual.

Many religions encourage people by offering hope. People hope that God will work out the problems of their lives as long as they are faithful. People hope for supernatural interventions and guidance in their prayers.

Hope is often the first theme in the four weeks of advent-- a time when Christians prepare for the coming of Jesus as a child. Newborn babies in the arms of mothers, fathers, and grandparents adorn the web. Babies represent hope.

Many religions encourage the faithful to offer hope to others in the form of gifts of time, service, and basic needs. We may reasonably wonder if the homeless are also hopeless. Warm clothes, a warm shelter, medical care--there are so many ways that giving products and services also gives hope.

Hope keeps people motivated in the pursuit of goals. Many discomforts and bad experiences can be overcome when hope remains alive.

Most children in countries with mega-economies have no need to hope for food and clothes. They have enough and more. They may hope for a toy they do not have, a special treat, or desirable gift. They may tantrum when wishes are not fulfilled. Hope is surely relative to one's life situation. But hope is a near universal component of human nature.

Disease and death disregard wealth and age. Children and adults hope a loved one will live longer or recover from a serious illness. And many hope they will see their loved one again in a new life after this life. Many faiths offer this kind of hope.

What else is hope connected to?

In a recent study of Christian University students, my colleagues (Kayla Jordan and Ev Worthington) and I found that hope was positively linked to compassion, forgiveness, and service to others. And those with higher levels of hope experienced less anxiety in their relationship with God. None of these should surprise us. But the links suggest a possible interrelationship. The students' sense of hope (nonreligious hope measure) was linked to their relationship with God and their relationship with others--specifically compassion and forgiveness. Hopeful people are more compassionate and more forgiving.

Hope is a powerful motivational force that can be nurtured.

How can people build hope?

1. Practice forgiveness. See other posts and many books to help you through the process. Forgiveness, like hope, allows people to focus on the future. Forgiveness closes a painful past event. Hope orients us toward future goals. Forgiveness allows hope to grow.

2. Show compassion by helping others. Focus on the joy of helping others rather than on avoiding guilt feelings due to crass pleas for funds at Christmas time. It is well-known that people are more inclined to give during Christmas holidays. The classic English tale, A Christmas Carol, illustrates the conversion of Scrooge into a man full of compassion for the needy. In giving to others, compassionate people offer hope to rebuild lives.

3. Offer hope by demonstrating that others can count on you to follow through on commitments. In the Hunger Games story of the Mockingjay, Katniss becomes the face of hope and the Mockingjay becomes a symbol of hope. People rise with hope, not just because a leader has been chosen and a symbol is on display, but also because people sense they can count on Katniss to lead them to a better life. Many are discouraged when political, community, church, and family leaders fail.

4. Meditate on stories of hope. Read about people who have risen to the occasion to offer a model of hope for others e.g., Malala Yousafzai,  Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Winston Churchill. Fictional characters like Katniss in the Hunger Games also teach lessons of hope.

The words of an ancient prophet still embody hope.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Jeremiah 29:11 NIV



Hope and Marriage

Optimism and Marriage


Nelson Mandela


Sutton, G. W., Jordan, K., & Worthington, E.L., Jr. (2014). Spirituality, hope, compassion, and forgiveness: Contributions of Pentecostal spirituality to godly love. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 33, 212-226. Link

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