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The Nature of Hope: Ideas, Quotations, and a Poem

Linda Crampton is an experienced teacher who enjoys reading and creative writing. She likes classical literature, fantasy, myth, and poetry.

Discovering hope can be a joyful and inspiring process.

Discovering hope can be a joyful and inspiring process.

The Meaning and Nature of Hope

Hope is a wonderful state of mind. It infuses life with positivity and gives us a new outlook on the world. Hope can provide a patch of sun in a dreary landscape and support us when life is difficult. A hopeful person often recognizes the reality of an unpleasant situation but refuses to be constrained by it.

Although the words wish, expect, and hope are often used in the same way, they mean different things to me. Wishing involves a desire for a specific outcome that is often unrealistic and unlikely to happen, such as the wish to win a large sum of money in a lottery. An expectation is a belief that a specific outcome in a situation is highly likely to happen. An unfulfilled expectation can be a major disappointment. Hope is more flexible. It's a feeling that something good could emerge from a situation, even if the outcome is not the preferred one.

In this article, I share ideas and quotations about hope that I find interesting, significant, or supportive. Some of the quotes refer to the writer finding hope even when life is hard, which is inspiring. At the end of the article, I include a poem about hope that I wrote.

Daffodils are used as a symbol of hope by some cancer societies.

Daffodils are used as a symbol of hope by some cancer societies.

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all.

— Emily Dickinson

Creativity and the Search for Hope

There are two contrasting beliefs about the existence of hope. One idea is that we create hope while the other is that it already exists and simply needs to be found. Some people think that realistic hope can be created from any situation and that once it's been created it’s a perfectly valid and meaningful construct for its creator. Other people regard hope as an entity that is inherent in all situations. They believe that hope can be revealed by careful attention as we notice what is always there but is not always easy to observe.

We may need to actively search for hope instead of passively waiting for it to appear. An active search doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re creating false hope or that we're deluding ourselves about its presence when it doesn't exist. It simply reflects the fact that hope is sometimes hidden or is not apparent and may need a bit of help—or a bit of creativity, depending on our viewpoint—to appear.

Having hope often involves working towards a goal. If one route to this goal seems to end, it's often possible to find another one, especially with some creative thinking. If all the routes to a goal seem to be blocked, or if the ability to attain the desired goal is out of a person's control, hope doesn't have to be extinguished. It may be possible to attain a modified goal.

Spring blossoms are an inspiring symbol of hope for me.

Spring blossoms are an inspiring symbol of hope for me.

The wings of hope carry us, soaring high above the driving winds of life.

— Ana Jacob

Seek Help When Necessary

External events and internal ones that we can't control on our own can play a major role in our state of mind. Our reactions to the events are also important, however. Help for dealing with a problem may come from within us and from situations and people in the outer world.

Hope can be empowering and is a very valuable attribute. In some situations, finding hope may not be a quick process. If a person's activity is having no effect on enabling them to reach a hopeful state in a particular situation, a change is needed. This is a dangerous point for me. If my first attempt to find hope wasn't successful, it can be tempting to give up the search. I have to start my new strategy for obtaining success as quickly as possible to avoid this outcome. For me, action is important.

Courage and/or the help of others or of particular resources may be needed if person is facing a major problem or if a goal is taking a long time to achieve. Some people may find the following activities beneficial in their efforts to find or maintain a hopeful state of mind.

  • exercise (relaxing or vigorous)
  • reading inspirational writing (including works by people with a similar problem to the reader)
  • listening to inspirational advice from a trusted source on the radio, television, or the Internet
  • listening to inspiring music
  • observing nature
  • walking in an interesting area and observing the surroundings
  • discussing the situation with a trusted or qualified friend, relative, or advisor
  • visiting a place that is personally significant, such as a religious institution
  • meditation or prayer

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.

— Archbishop Desmond Tutu

This is Sam, my golden retriever. A puppy has the potential for a long and happy life and is another symbol of hope for me.

This is Sam, my golden retriever. A puppy has the potential for a long and happy life and is another symbol of hope for me.

The Potential Ebb and Flow of Hopefulness

For some lucky people, hope is an old friend that never deserts them or that is quickly and easily renewed. For others, it seems to ebb and flow like the tide, growing and then subsiding for a while. The latter state of affairs may be satisfactory as long as the periods when hope is reduced are not hopeless.

Hope sometimes seems like a seedling that breaks through the soil after winter as the light returns. Like a growing seedling and its opening buds, true hope predicts a productive future. Some seeds are unable to germinate, however, or seedlings are crushed or suffocated by debris, too weak to push their way past obstacles. Just like a struggling plant, hope may be unable to emerge or may flicker for a while and then vanish. Luckily, just as the earth receives new seeds full of potential, new and viable seeds of hope can be planted in our minds.

I think that an emerging bud is a very hopeful sign.

I think that an emerging bud is a very hopeful sign.

Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.

— Jonas Salk (the creator of the first polio vaccine)

Finding Hope

I found hope again today,
a tiny bud of joy,
that might perhaps unfurl
and grow with vigour and delight,
or else shrivel under stress
and sink to earth again,
pathetic and forlorn.

I like to visit every day
to see how hope survives.
Sometimes I find a slender shoot
that struggles for the sun
and whispers secret happiness,
or surges up towards the light
with power and sympathy.

But then hope disappears,
concealed by earth and dross,
or choked by spider web,
unable to expand,
battered by distress
and hidden by distrust,
alone and inaccessible.

You thought you’d dug in deep
and crushed my dreams away;
but hope hides carefully
at rest through time and pain,
waiting for release
and then–I hope–
emerges wide and brilliantly.

Spring crocuses bursting through the leaf litter can symbolize emerging hope.

Spring crocuses bursting through the leaf litter can symbolize emerging hope.

© 2010 Linda Crampton

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