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Hope is Not a Strategy

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A few weeks ago, I saw the words Hope Is Not A Strategy written on a wall.  It resonated with me, deeply.

Since reading those words, I’ve thought a lot about “hope” as a concept and how it has influenced my behavior over the years.


I can pinpoint the exact moment when I first weighed hope as a strategy.  I’d just returned to college and learned that my friend Sally had a friend from her hometown who’d gone missing.  As she and I reviewed the facts known to us we began talking about what the worst-case scenario would be, and whether to plan for that.  Sally said that everyone around her was telling her to remain optimistic and hopeful to which I distinctly recall saying that ‘I’d much rather be wrong than unprepared’.  It was safer to accept this friend was gone then to assume she wasn’t, only to be devastated to learn otherwise.

Hope plays a significant role in our lives and is very much a theological virtue.  Hope combines the desire for something and the expectation of receiving it.

“While faith is a function of the intellect, hope is an act of the will”. 

Hope is a beacon in dark times.  There is significant evidence supporting that a strong belief in a desired outcome can influence achieving that outcome.  My personal belief in the power of hope is significant – so much so that it is my daughter’s middle name.

Yet I entirely believe that Hope is Not A Strategy.  Particularly in the face of facts, no matter how much I wish they were different.  My Dad had Stage IV esophageal cancer; hope wasn’t going to cure him.

It may be that in the face of living hope gives us the advantage.  But when facing the loss of a loved-one unrealistic hope can contribute even more to a sense of powerlessness that is already overwhelming.

My experience caring for my Dad and our relationship was made easier when he realized I wasn’t hoping for the unattainable; when he recognized he wasn’t disappointing me by giving up hope that he was “fighting” a battle he could win; when he was able to choose to die for himself, not live for me, my Mom, or his grandchildren.

Did we give up hope?  For our family, I’d say no.  For us we were able to see each day as it was rather than what we wanted it to be, what it might have been, or what it once was.   We faced milestones as if they could be the last which enabled us to be more real about the moment rather than hoping it would be different.

For you, is or was hope part of your strategy?  Did or does it embolden you in your role as a care partner?  Truly, I’d love to know.  As I wrote, hope has deep meaning to me and I often wonder what there is without hope?

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