How to Foster Hope in a Hopeless World
Hope is powerful. When someone has hope, discouragement does not become the psychological cancer of hopelessness. We need hope because we all face struggles in life.
So, what is hope and how do we foster it? Let me start with a story.
Two decades ago, I left the country for the first time. I went with a team to India to play and teach the game of basketball. We also helped native Indian men and women engage their communities from both faith and social justice perspectives. I experienced some terrible and wonderful things. I witnessed the horror of human sex trafficking, but I also experienced the beauty of selfless love as people ministered to the men, women, and children impacted by this slavery.
The shock of that experience sent me into a deep discouragement. I saw what I thought was utter hopelessness. Was there anything I could do that would make an actual difference in the lives of the people who were suffering? Who was I to speak into the darkness in which these people lived? Discouragement, then hopelessness, set in.
The good news:
I did not stay in the darkness! Hope had been introduced to me by the Indian men and women who were living with and ministering to those in need. Many of the Indian Christians were helping victims get appropriate medical care, were adopting children, and when possible, helping people escape from slavery. These amazing men and women helped me understand that hope is not a helpless act of wishful thinking, nor is hope ultimately dependent upon whether a situation changes. Their lives reflected a hope that involved a vision for how to move towards an intended outcome (We psychologists call this a “pathway”) and the internal motivation and belief that one can accomplish a goal (We call this “agency” in psychology).
I was able to see my own struggles and sufferings as opportunities for personal growth. My growth helped me resist the trap of comparison (i.e., “My suffering is not as bad as someone else’s,” or “They will never understand my pain.”) and allowed me to better reach out to others, meet them in their suffering, and walk with them through it. Helplessness and hopelessness began to be transformed into a belief that people and culture can be changed, one attitude and person at a time. This transformation starts with me, then overflows into others’ lives.
Fostering hope involves a few key principles and practices. I want to give you one in this blog and wrap them up in our next blog.
In what area(s) of life do I experience discouragement, possibly hopelessness? Different areas may include:
- physical health (e.g., diet, exercise, getting a physical from your primary care physician)
- emotional health (e.g., overcoming depression, having meaning in life)
- relationships (family, friendships, romantic relationships)
- spiritual health
- personal safety/security
Next, take each area and identify where you would like to be in that area in the next year.
This is you beginning to establish a long-term goal, or vision, for your life in these areas.
Finally, take each goal and break it down into 90-day objectives.
In other words, ask yourself, “What are a few things I can do in the next 90 days that move me towards my goal?”
If you would like a downloadable PDF to work through this information on your own you can can download the link here:
Now, act on what you have written. Choose to move towards your 90-day objectives.
If you are having a hard time answering these questions, you may need to find a guide. Talk to a pastor, a mentor, or maybe find a good counselor in your area to help you answer these questions within your current life context. Use the Worksheet linked above to talk through this information with your guide.
I’m looking forward to helping you cultivate hope personally and in the lives of others! See you in the next blog.