“Hope, like every virtue, is a choice that becomes a habit that becomes spiritual muscle memory.” Krista Tippett

There are so many contemporary wisdoms about hope I couldn’t help but draw some of them together in this piece. These references turn the idea of Hope on its head.

Brene Brown talks a lot about hope, arguing that hope is not an emotion but rather it is ‘a cognitive behavioural process that we learn when we experience adversity.’ (Becoming Wise)

Rebecca Solnit, author of Hope in the Dark, writing in the Guardian underpins hope with the significance of memory. She sets out in bold terms to show hope as something more than a fantasy and wishful thinking which seems to be the common thread in these references. Hope inhabits mystery and complexity.

“Memory produces hope in the same way that amnesia produces despair,” the theologian Walter Brueggemann noted. It is an extraordinary statement, one that reminds us that though hope is about the future, grounds for hope lie in the records and recollections of the past. We can tell of a past that was nothing but defeats, cruelties and injustices, or of a past that was some lovely golden age now irretrievably lost, or we can tell a more complicated and accurate story, one that has room for the best and worst, for atrocities and liberations, for grief and jubilation. A memory commensurate to the complexity of the past and the whole cast of participants, a memory that includes our power, produces that forward-directed energy called hope. (The Guardian)

This is enormously powerful and the last couple of lines speak of the enormity if we are to be open to it. I had never seen Hope in those terms before. Rebecca Solnit says something similar in her interview with Krista Tippett in Onbeing:

“Well, I really wanted to rescue darkness from the pejoratives, because it’s also associated with dark-skinned people, and those pejoratives often become racial in ways that I find problematic. So I wrote a book called Hope in the Dark about hope where the — where that darkness was the future, that the present and past are daylight, and the future is night. But in that darkness is a kind of mysterious, erotic, enveloping sense of possibility and communion. Love is made in the dark as often as not. And then to recognize that unknowability as fertile, as rich as the womb rather than the tomb in some sense… …and so much for me of hope is not, as I was saying, not optimism that everything will be fine, but that we don’t know what will happen.”


Until the other day I didn’t even know that there was Hope Theory until I read a reference made by Brene Brown to CR Synder.  Mindtools.com has a neat summary of the work that Snyder did:

Hope Theory argues that there are three main things that make up hopeful thinking:

Goals – Approaching life in a goal-oriented way.

Pathways – Finding different ways to achieve your goals.

Agency – Believing that you can instigate change and achieve these goals.

I love these ideas because they clearly point us in the the direction of agency which, in fact, sits in all three words.

But, finally, in this small step into an understanding of Hope, Krista Tippett writes compellingly about what Hope is:

“My life of conversation leads me to reimagine the very meaning of hope. I define hope as distinct from optimism or idealism. It has nothing to do with wishing. It references reality at every turn and reveres truth. It lives open eyed and wholeheartedly with the darkness that is woven ineluctably into the light of life and sometimes seems to overcome it. Hope, like every virtue, is a choice that becomes a habit that becomes spiritual muscle memory. It is a renewable resource for moving through life as it is, not as we wish it to be.”

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living

Wow! A renewable resource? What power resides in this sentence, leaving us with a memory.

It is a renewable resource for

moving through life as it is, not as we wish it to be. 


© Rick Frame