On Hope

Is it pointless to be a fan of a sports team? I had this existential crisis this past March. If you are not a fan of sports, stay with me while I explain. My Gonzaga Bulldogs were the number one seed in March Madness (again). Many pundits and fans had them winning the entire championship in their bracket (again). They fell short (again). Why do I even bother rooting, believing, hoping?

It happens over and over for every sports fan. Only one team wins each year. No matter how much you root. No matter how much you believe. No matter how much you hope. The outcome with the greatest possibility will be that your team loses. Your hopes will be crushed. As the fans of the Richmond Greyhounds in the AppleTV+ show Ted Lasso say, sometimes “it’s the hope that kills you.”

You don’t have to be a sports fan to understand that phrase: “it’s the hope that kills you.” We all hope for something. We hope for that promotion or salary raise. We hope that a loved one will make better choices. We hope that the world will be filled with less hate or violence. And many times, just like in sports, our hopes get shattered.

The difficult part of hope is that the more we hope, the more heartbreak we experience if the outcome breaks down. The danger is that we begin to lose hope. We stop believing or expecting a good outcome, a better future. And when hope disappears, we’ve already lost.

I want to posit that it’s not the hope that kills you. Even when the outcome is not desirable, the truth is that it’s the hope that SAVES you. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl explains his experience and observations of hope observes in his fellow prisoners in a concentration camp during World War II:

“The prisoner who had lost faith in the future – his future – was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and become subject to mental and physical decay.”

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Hope is powerful. It changes us. It adapts our outlook. It shapes how we view the world, our paradigm. It determines the decisions we make and how we act. When we hope for a better future and believe it can come to pass, our attitude adjusts to prepare for and expect that future. We may even change our decisions and direction to be ready for the desired outcome. Optimists live better lives than pessimists because a hope for something better always brings more happiness, joy, and contentment than an expectation of something worse.

It’s true that sometimes optimists will be wrong. In those moments, where it feels like hope is lost and the heartbreak is overwhelming, the joy eventually returns from finding hope once again. And that hope again propels us to create a brighter future. It’s the hope that saves us.

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