One of my favorite movie trilogies features one that I consider to be the best movie quote ever: “Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength and your greatest weakness.”
Reading the quote, you formed an opinion about hope for yourself. You either agreed with the “greatest strength” side or the “greatest weakness” one. Either way, when going through the thought process that brought you to either of those conclusions, you were able to at least understand why the other side of the coin is even possible.
I’m no cynic (some might say I am) but I have a lot of trouble believing someone who is “hoping” they will be able to show up for the party or “hoping” to complete their work on time. The way I see it, they either will do it or will not, but to hope they will do what they are promising, either places the responsibility of making “x” happen on the shoulders of intangible beings (like those found in religion) or lacks a sense of personal responsibility altogether.
Hope, understood as the desire for a favorable turnout of events, is an outside-of-me phenomenon, where the person holding hope relinquishes control (or even the desire of controlling) the very situation they wish to see come to a favorable conclusion. It is pretty clear how hope can become someone’s “greatest weakness”.
But how can it be somebody’s “greatest strength”? I think it has a lot to do with assigning hope. You see, in the preceding examples, hope was used (cleverly so) to transfer responsibility from the person “hoping” to an intangible being or thing, such that in the end, there was nobody to account for what was being promised. In the other hand, assigning hope to oneself tends to have quite the opposite effect.
Have you ever been in the position of being someone else’s “only hope” for something? It usually happens in two very distinct moments. First, there is someone who needs something and another who accepts the responsibility of providing that what is needed, in that moment, there are two individuals placing hope onto a very real, tangible being. There is no bigger rush than that. Once you are carrying another human being’s hope added to your own and you fully accept the responsibility that comes with it, then nothing’s impossible.
Hope is a gift and a responsibility. When it is given to you by others is an honor and when you use it to squirm your way out of promising something (and delivering on it) it is a shame.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I never fall into the hoping trap, it is only that I am beginning to notice when I do. There have been many instances in my life when I have been the carrier of other people’s hopes and sometimes I delivered and sometimes I disappointed. Needless to say is that I don’t keep all my promises and I use all sorts of lame excuses to get out of them but even this nonsense I am writing now is part of my process to learn how to be responsible and to promise a little more than what I am comfortable promising and then making it happen, without the “need for hope”.
People use all sorts of things to “get off the hook”, hoping something miraculously delivers on their promises is only one of them. What would the world look like if all of us start treating hope as the gift that it is?
Want to find out? Stop hoping and start acting.