By Eric Ehrke, LCSW, LMFT
Alexander Pope in his Essay on Man initially penned the inspiring phrase “Hope springs eternal.” Like a warm ember, hope can awaken a frozen heart on a bitter night. When we loose our bearings, optimism and virtue have always been welcome visitors. Fear can electrify our insides, while hope soothes like a calming, fresh breeze. This article will explore the importance of the virtue called hope.
Defined as moral excellence, the seven Western virtues include temperance, prudence, courage, justice, faith, hope, and love (charity). Some Eastern traditions add rectitude and benevolence into the virtue mix. Unfortunately, when we’re too busy surviving or attempting to control events around us, virtue often gets thrown out the window.
Hope is like a gentle sparrow that flicks from tree to tree. To nature lovers, this familiar, little songbird provides a pleasant normality. Since the laws of nature are equally applied, cats, birds of prey, and even some people eat sparrows. Fortunately, sparrows are quick and agile, can dodge death and still sing to their heart’s content. By not only surviving but also thriving, the sparrow’s resiliency offers hope to everyone.
Sparrows are small, not heavily armored and escape predators well. They are sweet, gentle birds and stick around throughout the coldest winters. Since their flocks have such large numbers, reproduction doesn’t seem to be a problem. Despite numerous predators and harsh winters, they seem to getting along just fine. Due to their success, for all I know sparrows could be the inspiration behind Disney’s famous Magic Kingdom song, “It’s a Small World,” that everyone can’t get out of their head.
If you’re struggling with depression and need inspiration, remember these little creatures. When you watch a group of sparrows, one of their important adaptations is how social they are. Notice how this small creature scavenges food and finds shelter in the humblest of places, while they’re singing songs and creating beauty wherever they are.
Hope is an important quality of our soul. When we feel lonely and isolated, love and heart connection are easily forgotten. Perhaps the courage it took to write the book, “The Audacity of Hope,” inspired Barrack Obama, when his hair turned grey so quickly during his presidency, to keep his hair natural rather than color it orange. Jokes aside, every human soul never forgets its divine origins. Our challenges are to remain spiritually connected and live mindfully. I consider hopefulness, mindfulness, and soulfulness sacred siblings. Hope is the salve or ointment that calms us down during challenging times. When we feel alone and nothing is working, hope is a reliable horse that gets us where we need to go during gasoline shortages.
Hope is the first step of the creative process. This virtue provides the first hint of possibility and indicates that solutions can happen. Every creative act must start from somewhere and hope ignites the engine of possibility. Like a good train engineer, hope stokes the fires and fuels a powerful locomotive called possibility. Intention is the engine that moves our creation down the tracks that and eventually manifests dreams.
Developing a good sense of timing and knowing when to share our hopes and dreams with others is an important skill to master. Dreams are important and hope is the close sibling of a dreamer. Dreams are a refined collection of focused hope. Our mind is designed to develop the actual plan to manifest hopes and dreams. This is why we need to nurture our dreams like little blades of grass when they initially break through the earth.
Individual blades of hope can create a beautiful lawn where life thrives. It’s always important to nurture and protect each blade of grass from storms and stomping feet. Crowds of people walking on young grass can kill a lawn. This is the reason many sages advise discernment when sharing hopes and dreams with the wrong people.
Discussing hopes and dreams with individuals lacking in virtue and who don’t care about you is futile. They can ridicule and crush creative impulses. They kill your dream by riding horses over your young blades of grass. Only let people who want to help your lawn grow know about your hopes and dreams. By nurturing and protecting seedlings long before strangers get to walk, stomp or ride horses over then, lawns will survive just fine.
By sharing hopes and dreams too quickly, seedlings can whither and die from lack of nurturing. Hold hopes and dreams, give them time to mature before showing them to the unwashed masses too quickly. Some people call this concept, “holding your gold” before flashing wealth to the unworthy. Gold can be stolen and some people steal or may call your hopes and dreams “fool’s gold.” The temptation to drop gold or throw wealth away before hopes and dreams have a chance to become a beautiful garden of possibility may occur in these circumstances.
In summary, hope is like a gentle flower or a blade of grass. It needs to be nurtured just like a beloved baby. We all have hopes and dreams about babies and what they will become when they grow up. Healthy babies do best with lots of love, song, and connection just like a flock of sparrows. Hope needs recognition, because it is the first step of any project or dream.