Hope against Hope?

Hope against Hope?

In a recent article, I talked about worry and how it does not help us in our spiritual path. Prayerful hope is the antidote to worry, but how do we get there?

For me, for a long time, the word “hope” was so incredibly intangible as to be actually quite hopeLESS… It was to wish for something without any basis for expecting fulfillment…the equivalent of a fantasy… to “hope against hope.”

So, what is hope?

According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary:


intransitive verb

1. to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true

2. (archaic) : trust

transitive verb

1. to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment

2. to expect with confidence: trust

Still very intangible. So, I looked for kinds of types of hope.

Three Kinds of Hope?

Amazon link

I grabbed these terms from the Changing Minds website –

Realistic hope – based on probability.

  • When we are working on a project which is doing well, we have realistic hope that it will succeed.
  • When we follow a prescribed course of action, we have realistic hope that it will work.
  • Example of action: Because I am following the doctor’s advice, I can expect to feel better.
  • Example of prayer: “Bless my actions and help me succeed.”

Optimistic hope – based on our projection plus our willingness to make it happen.

  • When we start out a new project (like this blog, for example), we don’t know for sure that it’s going to succeed, but with our work and devotion, we have this optimistic hope that it’s going to work.
  • Example of action: I begin a new exercise program, so that I may run the 5k next year.
  • Example of prayer: “Bless this new course of action, so that I may be happier and healthier.”

Desperate hope – “hope for the hopeless” would be along these lines.

  • This is when we hope for something which we view as being impossible, but very much wanted.
  • Desperate hope includes foolish dreams, but also (seemingly) hopeless situations.
  • I hope (against hope) that I will be a size 4 without having to exercise or change my diet. (foolishness)
  • I hope (against hope) that my friend in the end stages of cancer will somehow live another ten years. (we need a miracle.)
  • Example of action: I begin to visit casinos to try to win the money I want to buy a better car.
  • Or : I ship my friend a quart of Lourdes water and say a rosary for her every day.

But somehow, I feel that Hope is more complex than this – and simpler at the same time…

Is hope a destination?

I found this oft-misquoted saying from Robert Louis Stevenson:

To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.

What does this mean? Is it true?

The point is, that Hope can be tainted with a level of fearfulness.

I hope my time in Paris will be awesome, but what if it’s not?

  • What if I’m disappointed with the Louvre?
  • What if it rains while I’m trying to enjoy the Eiffel Tower?
  • What if I get mugged or fall ill?

I hope my new boyfriend will turn out to make a great husband, but what if he doesn’t?

  • What if he turns out to be a closet drunk?
  • What if he has secret children and a secret marriage in Russia?
  • What if we become the subject of a headline about a murder-suicide?

These “what ifs” can get so much in the way of our Hope that it stifles us. I don’t make the reservations to travel to Paris. I don’t pursue this relationship.

In a way, it is more comforting to hope these things than to risk the reality which might include disappointment.

But is this truly hope?

Amazon link

Or has it gone back to worry? Which, again, is fear – back to that word…

Worry is a type of ‘fear’ – which, in turn, is a form of negative hope.

Hope – to want for something which might happen.

Fear – to be afraid of something which might happen.

Opposite sides of the same coin. Both sides can rule us if we allow them to… but not at the same time.

This takes us to an entirely different way of looking at types of hope…

Three kinds of hope… a different approach

False Hope – to hope for something totally unlikely – or falsely promised.

Examples of false hope include:

  • gambling,
  • hoping to avoid lung cancer while continuing to smoke several packs of commercial cigarettes daily,
  • hoping to avoid liver damage while refusing to get help for addiction.
  • To hope for the benefits of a spiritual life, but refusing to go to Reconciliation.

True Hope – back to realistic hope, this hope is based on reality.

Examples of true hope include:

  • hoping that the number one team in the league might win the championship,
  • hoping to avoid lung cancer by giving up cigarettes,
  • hoping to avoid liver damage by going to alcoholics anonymous.

Spiritual Hope – takes hope to a whole new level in obtaining spiritual graces to achieve holiness.

Examples of true hope include:

  • attending mass weekly,
  • going to Reconciliation often,
  • praying daily,
  • dedicating yourself to Jesus, Mary and the Saint.

The awesome thing about spiritual hope is that it gives abundant rewards and graces for your efforts.

One more set of types of hope – which I found to be very important. Because without action, hope is futile.

Passive versus Active Hope

In his final line of El Dorado, Robert Louis Stevenson says a little more than what is generally quoted.

“Little do ye know your own blessedness; for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.”

from Virginibus Puerisque and other Papers

Is he really saying that it is better not to arrive? Actually, I suspect he is encouraging people to work towards their goals – and maybe to not have a defined destination.

The What If Concepts website refers to the difference between passive and active hope.

Passive hope includes a certain level of laziness.

  • If we “hope” to learn to drive a truck, but do not take the required courses or practice driving smaller vehicles, then we will never get there.
  • If we “hope” to speak French, but never put in the time and effort required, we will never learn the language.
  • We “hope” to get closer to Jesus and Mary, but we do not pray the rosary and do not pray prayers of devotion to their sacred and immaculate hearts.

To put it in terms of physics, this is “potential energy” – not a bad thing in itself, but we need to take it a step further.

Active hope includes action towards our goals.

  • We take the driving lessons.
  • We study our French.
  • We practice piano.
  • We pray the rosary daily, pray novenas of devotion, wear the miraculous medal and visit grottos.
  • We put the effort into our faith.

Back to physics, this is “kinetic energy” – and what gets us results.

Our responsibility is to turn our potential hope into kinetic hope… Hope plus action.

This is not to say we have to do things alone.

Our Heavenly family (Jesus, Mary, the Saints) are there to help us and take the bulk of the weight of life’s challenges… if only we will let them.

Let us engage in true kinetic hope – through our own labors, through the intercession of Heaven and Earth… Put aside “hope against hope” and make it real.





(Hope image found at: http://www.picserver.org/images/highway/phrases/hope.jpg )

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