Hope or a sky without stars

“…when she had those dreams at night, he was there, as if he had never died, although she knew, even in the dream, that he had. One day she would join him, she knew, whatever people said about how we came to an end when we took our last breath. Some people mocked you if you said that you joined others when your time came. Well, they could laugh, those clever people, but we surely had to hope, and a life without hope of any sort was no life: it was a sky without stars, a landscape of sorrow and emptiness.”

― Alexander McCall SmithBlue Shoes and Happiness

In defense of hope

I love research professor and scholar Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, for all of her important and excellent work around vulnerability, shame, and perfectionism. She is smart, funny, a great presenter (check out her TED talks) and a fellow Texan, but this small quote, attributed to Brown, bugs me:

“Hope is a function of struggle.”
~Brené Brown

That sounds so negative. Maybe there is more to this, but these words seem like they are saying if we are hopeful, then we are engaged in struggling. Really?

Ok, I get a smidgeon of what Brown might be saying, such as, when we are in the midst of struggle we hope for something better, different, new. We pin our hopes on something else; we pine for relief or a solution. And the hope itself, perhaps, becomes entwined and a part of the struggle.

Yet, Brown’s six words are snatching away a runway that gives people possibility. Hope, to me, is beyond struggle. Hope is an anchor that keeps our feet on the ground so we can take the next step. Hope allows us to feel possible and open to something new. Hope is the flame of a candle in a dark room.

Hope is the antithesis of struggle. Hope keeps our spirits up and our heart open. Hope can be comfort on a dark, scary night. Hope can be a higher-altitude way of dealing with difficulty and disaster. Hope offers potential and promise. When we are beyond tired, feeling beaten down, and the next step seems unfathomable, hope is the juice in our engine that keeps us chugging forward.

In my work with my psychotherapy clients and most especially, suicidal clients, hope is my healing ally. Hope opens a door to a bigger perspective. Hope reminds us that nothing is constant and change is possible.

The mere idea of hope, gives me hope. Hope releases the bindings of struggle. Hope says, “Heads up. Stay awake. There’s something around the corner.” Hope reminds us to trust and have faith and that Mystery is part and parcel of our human lives.

In contrast to Brené Brown, my words are, “Hope leads the way out of struggle.”