What to do When Hope for Growth Runs Dry
There it is again, that old problem that won't die the death. The past hurt. The current conflict. The old pattern of coping that never seems to make any real difference. The thing is back in your face.
Or maybe you went through the free experience-appraisal and discovered that you're actually carrying around some intense pressure to answer old issues. Whatever the reason, you have that nagging sense of dread that you need to deal.
But there's resistance, a distancing from the mere idea of moving into the problem on purpose. What's the point? Avoidance is a tempting tactic. You may or may not feel an emotional despair about the subject, but there is a skepticism, an intellectual despair. The question is hanging there, dive in or distract?
You'll answer according to your degree of hope.
But when you're sick of having your hopes dashed, or afraid of being duped into a false hope that this time something will be better, hope is very fragile (where it exists at all). When you're dealing with an old issue that you’ve become skeptical and perhaps even cynical about, what is the logical reason to hope against hope and try again? Here are three.
Because it's humble.
It demonstrates that you, even you, with all of your wisdom, creative perspectives, researching, studying, and truly sincere and valiant trying... could still be wrong. Maybe wrong in your judgments. Maybe wrong in your approach to the problem. Maybe wrong in the questions you've been asking.
If you’re not willing to hope enough to seek again—or hope enough to question the judgment that you shouldn’t hope—then check your humility.
And watch for false modesty that's really veiled cynicism. Things like, “I’m just not like other people who keep trying. I’m not ____ (strong, smart, wise…) enough. I don’t have what it takes.” Anything that places others as a “have” and you as a “have-not” is a lie when it comes to the basic human dignity of asking questions and seeking answers. Questioning your questions and judgments isn’t about ______ (strength, smarts, wisdom), it’s about your humanity. Which brings us to the next point.
Because it honors your humanity.
To question in the face of failure is not only to accept your fallibility, but also to honor the infinite nature of knowledge. There is always more to know and deeper understanding to be gained. Where there is the ability to reason and to seek understanding, there is responsibility to both. If you can question, you should question, because to question and to seek answers to what can be known is your most basic human right and privilege.
Don’t think of yourself as so “different” or “special” or “weak” that you work yourself right out of your humanity and your dignity.
To the contrary, it's by persevering in asking questions that we become strong, smart, wise, and special, even if we never get the particular answers we seek. The process of asking and seeking is what matters. That's what is in our power to do. Don't deny your power by not seeking. Rather, acknowledge your weakness that you don't have ultimate control over the answers.
True, diligent, and patient seekers can testify: even when it's not what they set out to find, they always find something worth their effort. Another reason?
Because it’s progressive.
You may have heard the saying, “If nothing changes, then nothing changes.” In a sense, that's true, and the warning is good to keep in mind. But technically, the whole truth is that if nothing changes, everything changes... it gets worse. The skepticism of refusing to hope, and therefore to try again, eventually devolves into cynicism—becoming pessimistic, distrustful of other people, and eventually of life itself. Skepticism as a form of despair, is evidence of spiraling down. It's recessive. It's contrary to improvement.
Hope is the beginning of progress.
Want to find hope? Question your judgment that it's best not to hope.
But then remember this:
Don't hope because it's reasonable and dignified to hope, and then proceed with the same old questions and answers. Find new ones. Simpler ones. More basic ones.
That is what will move you forward because you'll change the very nature of the problem. And that...