When to hope … and when to abandon hope

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Hope is a beautiful thing. It can keep you alive when nothing else can.

Hope has kept shipwrecked sailors alive.

It helped prisoners survive the concentration camps.

Unfortunately, hope has killed as many people as it has saved.

Because hope is not what you think it is.

 

The nature of hope

Hope is not some magical unicorn that comes down from the clouds to make the bad things go away.

It doesn’t grant wishes and make bad stuff stop.

Hope is a tool that accomplishes one job. And it does it very well.

 

Hope keeps you going

Hope keeps you going on the same path. That’s what it’s good at.

But here’s the catch:

Hope keeps you on the same path … even when you need to change to a different path.

 

Hope stops you from taking action

Put another way, hope stops you from taking action.

This can be good, or it can be bad (like I said, hope is a tool, and tools can be used for good or bad).

Hope will keep a shipwrecked survivor from giving up and letting himself die.

That same hope will keep a man from fighting back when a home invader takes his wife into the next room.

 

Stay the course

Stay the course is a very inspirational meme-worthy phrase, I’ll give it that. But don’t for a second bullshit yourself that it’s always a good thing.

Sometimes your course is a little bit of rough weather, and all you need to do is out-stubborn the weather until it passes.

But sometimes your course is heading towards a reef that will sink your ship.

 

Tell them to piss off

So whenever someone prescribes hope as a cure for what ails you, tell them to piss off.

Hope is not some elixir that helps for every single situation. That’s talisman thinking (as long as I don’t lose my lucky coin/dog-tags/rabbit’s foot, I’ll be fine).

Like all tools, having hope first requires you to be an adult, take self responsibility, and decide if hope will help you or hurt you.

Just having a gun won’t keep you safe. You still need to know when, and when not, to use it.

Hope is the same. Will taking no action, making no changes, make things better or worse?

 

Examples

Home invasion: Sometimes an immediate, not-well-thought-out counter attack is called for. But sometimes it’s worthwhile to sit tight, and see how things develop first.

Hoping that the home invaders won’t hurt you or your family*** will keep you rooted to the spot, not doing anything rash. So long as they’re being professional and calm this could be fine (no guarantees in this life). But when they start showing signs that they will hurt your family, the time has come to put hope back in its holster, and pick a different tool from a different holster.

 

Be an adult

So what does this all mean?

Hope isn’t a cure-all. It doesn’t magically make things better. In fact, it doesn’t change anything … and that’s its point.

If fear is the mind-killer, then hope is the action-killer.

Hope is a tool. You have to be an adult and think things through before deciding if you should deploy hope.

There are times to abandon hope:

 

*** – For the record, I think this is too generic to be helpful. “Won’t hurt me/my family” is not a suitable line in the sand. What if they only slap you? It didn’t hurt that much. It wasn’t damage. Do you act now, or let that one slide … just the once?

A line in the sand needs to be a specific action, not a general effect. “Hurt” is a general effect due to their actions. “Take anybody into a room away from me” is a specific action. It’s a go-signal.

“If I think they’ll start hurting people” is too general. It’s too easy to talk yourself out of.

“If they start tying us up” is a definitive action. IT leaves no room to bullshit yourself about “well, they only tied us up a little bit”.

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