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Hope is the mainspring of all endeavour. Take hope away, and life loses not only it meaning, but its urge to live.
A friend, who had been a prisoner of
war for two years told me that many of his comrades died in the camp simply
because they lost the will to live. The conditions were harsh. But even so,
there was nothing much organically wrong with these men. They simply had given
up hope that deliverance would come. Men can endure almost anything. If they
Hope is a divinely implanted
instinct. “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”, wrote the poet Alexander
Pope. It is the most powerful dynamo for fullness of living. Its effect can
never be over – estimated – on health, personal achievement, and human
situations of every kind.
Medical science in recent years has
come to recognize the psychological
importance of the mental and emotional attitude of the patient in illness.
Patients with sanguine, hopeful temperaments react to medication for more
quickly. Psychologically speaking, the explanation is simple. The human body is
more than a physical organism. As psychosomatic science teaches, mind and body
are so closely interrelated, that every thought and feeling of the mind is
registered in the nerve cells and carried to every part of the body – heart,
stomach, muscles, even the most obscure corners.
In any illness, a hopeful, optimistic
frame of mind in the patient is the doctor’s best ally, calling up fresh resources
of strength and vitality from every part of the organism. The same applies to
any business enterprises or worthwhile undertaking. The shop – keeper who wants
to extend his premises, and allows doubts and fears to crowd in on his mind,
may as well close his doors.
The optimist, on the other hand, is a
realist who doesn’t need to be told of the hazards awaiting him, and that there is no insurance
against failure. But he dares to hope that he can, and will, make a success of
things – and that makes all the difference.
Think failure, and you will get just
that. Think success and the possibilities of success are all with you. It
simply means this, that what you think and believe in and hope for, tends to
Does It Work?
William James founded what is called
the philosophy of pragmatism. It means: the test of the truth of any theory,
idea, dogma is, when applied to daily life, how does it work out?
The gloomy, pessimistic, attitude
applied to any problem, difficulty, human
situation, does not work for us. It ends in frustration, failure,
defeat. The optimistic attitude brings with it promise and fulfilment. It pays
How can one cultivate the optimistic
outlook? Temperamentally it is more difficult for some people than for others.
Some are naturally of a sunny disposition, while others seem born with on over – anxious,
gloomy nature. Low vitality or a robust constitution can also make a
difference. The truth is there is something of the optimist and the pessimist
in everybody’s make – up. It is for us to tip the balance one way or the other.
You can, if you will.
1. Begin with your manner of speech:
Ours is a disillusioned age. It is
the fashion to be cynical about almost everything. Avoid this at all costs. If
you have nothing good or approving to
say, say nothing. If there is something uplifting and encouraging to say, be
sure to say it. It helps others, and helps you. Speech has a reflex action. we
become the way we speak cool and calculating, depressed and gloomy, or bright and
2. Don’t run away from problems:
Where there is a will, there is a
way. And there must be a way out. Deal with the matter realistically. Set
down on paper the pros and cons of the
case, and study them as a detached observer. Examine the alternate
possibilities. If this does not succeed, what other ways are there? Seeing
things in their true perspective is the first step to coping with a problem.
Tackle it with a lighter and more courageous heart.
3. Apply the optimistic attitude to personal relationships:
If someone irritates you, you can be
filled with resentment and may even
reach a stage where you hate that
person. This is bad for you. Relax a little and examine the other side of the
picture. Consider the good points of that individual. We all have our faults
and failings. Let the good picture fill your mind. This will not only save you
from foolish and unforgiveable action, but will also work with your friend.
4. Accept the inevitable:
If adversities like blindness, the
loss of a limb or some chronic ailment
overtakes you, there is no option. You must learn to live with that for the
rest of your days. Even here the optimistic, hopeful and neat
difference. A sympathetic friend spoke thus to a man who was
incapacitated by war wounds: “How this must colour your outlook!” To which the
man replied: “Yes, but it depends on me to choose the colour!”
In every case that I have known, hope
has been sustained by a strong and living religious faith, a passionate
conviction that their lives were in God’s hands that life had a meaning and purpose, and that no matter what happened
to them. God cared and understood their need, and would help them to see it
through to the end.
One of the most moving testimonies of modern times is to be found in
the letters of a German pastor, who because of his outspokenness was imprisoned
and condemned to death by Hitler. His name is Bonhoeffer. In his letter from
prison there is no self – pity, no complaints. He shows affectionate interest
in his friends and family, and is full
of joy and good cheer. When he faced his executioners he said: “This is
not the end, but a new beginning”.
Hope sustained by a living faith is
invincible. You can cultivate a similar optimism and courage. The benefits will
be enormous – for you, and those who are around you.