Estimated Lesson Time: 3 minutes
“Refusal to hope is nothing more than a decision to die.” Powerful words from the best-selling author and perhaps foremost expert on understanding the gift of hope, Bernie S. Siegel, M.D. Hope is a gift, and perhaps one of the greatest gifts bestowed upon mankind. But hope, when misunderstood, can also be a curse. It is this false hope that causes more people to fail and lose control of their lives than those who just give up on life. A key element of both success and happiness is understanding the power of hope.
There are a few words in the English language that are often interchanged with the word hope. These words are wish, faith, and pray. However, each word does have significant differences. To hope is to wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment. A wish is a desire, longing, or strong inclination for a specific thing, with no specific level of expectation. Faith is a belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence, whereas a prayer is a reverent petition to a god or another object of worship. The confusing of these words with each other usually just results in a minor grammatical faux pas, but when any of these words, especially hope, is confused with action, the results are much more devastating.
Aristotle described hope as a waking dream. Dreams are vital to success and achievement, but dreams without action are just dreams. Hope is no different. Those who spend their lives just hoping may live a positive life, but it would be a life of dreams and not one of achievement. Your hopes are only good to one person—you. All great achievement throughout history is a result of action, not just hope.
So why is hope one of mankind’s greatest gifts? The mental power of hope combined with the physical power of action is one of the greatest forces we humans possess. A lawyer may hope for the best results for her client, at the same time being sure to prepare the best case possible. The Red Sox may hope to win a World Series while doing their best to make sure they are up to the physical and mental challenge. Hope, by itself, also has its place. Hoping for things we have no control over is one of the ways we can alter our own perception of the world to our favor. This hope is the fuel that keeps us going in the darkest of times. It is hope that allows us to visualize a brighter future. “Hope itself is a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief happiness which the world affords,” wrote Samuel Johnson.
The pain and suffering of millions of people could be eased if they removed just one word from their vocabulary—hopeless. One of the most influential women in modern American history, Clare Boothe Luce, said it best, “There are no hopeless situations; there are only men who have grown hopeless about them.” While some situations may not be within your control since hope comes from within, there is always hope.
Hope can be both a blessing and a curse. To avoid the curse, don’t rely purely on hope when action can be taken. To enjoy the blessing, use hope along with action to accomplish the seemingly impossible. And when a situation is out of your control, hang on to hope; even though it may be all you have, it may prove to be enough.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)