Are Hope And Resilience A Matter of Choice?

Where and how do you find hope? What makes it possible for you to be resilient?

Today, perhaps more than at any time in recent memory, exploring the answers to these questions may be vitally important—for ourselves and for our community.

Wikipedia provides a common understanding of (and use of the word) hope: “An optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.” As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence,” and, “to cherish a desire with anticipation.”

But how does one get an “optimistic state of mind,” especially in the midst of a global pandemic and a deeply divided community and nation? Do we just say, “I’m going to have hope or be hopeful”?

The Nature of True Hope

Maybe that will work for some and for a time, but the Czech writer and statesmen, Vaclav Havel, suggests something different about the nature of hope.

Either we have hope within us or we don’t.

Hope is a dimension of the soul, and it is not particularly dependent on some observation of the world.

Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart.

It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond the horizons.

Hope in this deep and powerful sense is not the same as joy that things are going well or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism.

It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.

It is hope, above all, which gives us the strength to love and continually try new things.

The Truth About Hope

Havel suggests that hope, real hope, is deeper than our ability to “put on hope” or consciously decide to “have hope.”

The choice we have regarding hope is not to have it or not. Our choice is to allow for it or not. That is, hope is not in one’s conscious mind, not in one’s emotions.

Hope is in one’s heart/soul/spirit. It is the choice of choosing to allow it (not to choose it). It comes from within.

What is the difference between willing and allowing? Allowing suggests that the rising up of hope from within is not based on our outward circumstances.

When we allow hope to arise, we are letting go of attempting to control life or insist that life must be a certain way. Instead, we are choosing to make room for the inner light, the divine spark within us to emerge.

Resilience is perhaps found in the same way—by choosing to allow hope to emerge.

Hope In A Faith Community

How might this all play out in congregational life? For the most part, it seems to be pretty much the same — learning to allow rather than attempt to control.

However, with congregations or any organization/institution, resilience and hope are not defined by survival. A congregation may demonstrate resilience and hope as a congregation, thriving in the face of difficulty and pain. A congregation may learn how, as a congregation, to overcome internal and external obstacles.

In reality, to say that an organization or congregation is resilient is to say that a critical mass of its members have a sense of hope leading to resilience.

Survival, however, is not resilience. Hope and resilience can also be demonstrated in letting go of the organization.

For what, ultimately, is an organization? Is it not the current shape of the way a certain group of people have chosen to live together? If so, then that group of people may allow itself to be remade. After all, is not death and rebirth at the heart of the Christian gospel?

So, perhaps the challenge we face, both individually and as congregations and organizations, is, “stepping back from the dance floor and into the balcony,” in the words of retired pastor and Samaritan Founder Jim Hanna.

That is, providing ourselves the opportunity to reflect and then to choose to allow, even as we engage or re-engage our daily work.

About The Author

David Miron has a master’s in human resources/organizational development from American University, as well as a bachelor’s in religion with a certificate in Jewish studies from Temple University, and a certificate in biblical studies from Eastern Mennonite Seminary. He serves as the coordinator of Samaritan Counseling Center’s Clergy & Congregation Care program, and provides training and leadership development consultation for congregations, judicatories and Samaritan Business Consulting clients. David is also a trained interpreter of Holy Cow! Consulting’s suite of assessment tools.

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