How to discover hope when the bottom of our world falls out—
time and again.
Finding hope. Finding certain hope. Not hope that is uncertain like a skimpy floatation device, but a proper orange life-jacket, with sufficient buoyancy, able to turn a face-down drowning person’s head, keep it above the thrashing waves, allowing breaths to be taken—sustaining life.
Have you ever walked across a burnt veld, days after the devastation and stumbled upon an unscathed flower?
Finding beauty amidst the fracture lines and shards of our lives is not easy. Or simple. Those who claim it is are dishonest. Even those of us who have “arrived, who lead these apparent glamorous, perfect lives, who have it all sorted out,” are in need of hope. Rest assured—we all wear masks—pain is part of our lives. Some of us only hide it better.
I won’t waste your time with cheap sentimentality or play down the devastation of setbacks we face daily. Many of these crises we have absolutely no control over—unable to prevent them from occurring. However, over our eventual response(s), we have more control.
Beauty can be found—amidst destruction. Hope can be found —amidst pain and loss. It is not an illusion.
Yes, faith can be found too.
Hopelessness and despair are not the fixed ends to the hard blows life deal us.
The realization, that in spite of all the hurt, the devastation, the destruction, the emptiness, or the incomprehensibility—purpose, and awe can still be found. It will require a shift in focus. It won’t be easy. We have to work hard to find it. Work through the pain. We will have to learn how to look for it.
We can live with open our eyes and still miss it.
The extent and insidiousness of the personal crisis can be quite subtle, or crippling and devastating, or, be a wake-up call. For example:
- Going through a divorce.
- Losing a loved one—a close family member or friend.
- Having your doctor say you have Type 2 Diabetes.
- Getting diagnosed with cancer—a seemingly unassailable mountain to conquer. Add to that ending up with a permanent stoma bag as part of the bargain. Unthinkable.
- Losing your job.
- Surviving and putting a life together following sexual assault and abuse. (Especially when your claim is dismissed—the conclusion of the officials: your case is unfounded. Your allegations apparently all baseless—figments of your imagination.)
- Surviving as a victim of workplace abuse and bullying —often the abuse and harassment is ingrained in the culture of the institution. It is often well camouflaged, “dressed-up,” and is seen as a ‘right of passage.’ It is not uncommon to come across this in the military and medical community, where participants are often bully-victims—themselves being part of a complex abusive system.
It is easy for outsiders, (or insiders) to claim you are a failure—you can’t take the pressure—you “don’t have what it takes.” You’re not man (or woman) enough, not tough enough, not resilient enough. You’re simply not good enough.
Why are we surprised when people commit suicide? Or attempt to? When we avert our eyes for their plight and remain silent?
How can we remain silent?
Fear silences people.
Don’t believe the lies society so often tells. You are not a failure. There is hope to be found. Even beauty.
What is to be done?
Time. Time heals all wounds. Right? Perhaps it’s not that straightforward.
Be honest. Say, I have a problem. There’s no shame in that. Get help.
Don’t go alone.
1 | Don’t neglect or forsake your friends.
(There is much truth in the saying, “there’s a friend that is closer than a brother.”)
- Be that friend.
- Surround yourself with positive people.
- Compassionate love heals.
- Forgiveness brings healing as well.
2 | Get professional help.
Psychologist/Psychiatrist/Psychotherapist—talking helps. Find new perspectives.
3 | Spouse/significant other/partner—open up the “blocked footpaths” of communication channels again.
A crisis is as good a time as any to get closer to people who care about you. Don’t push them away. Find healing together.
4 | Church/Pastor/Priest—don’t make faith a “last resort.”
How often don’t we reach the point of “I’m going under—I’m drowning, I can’t last anymore!” No matter how deep you’re in, God’s love is wider and deeper and surer than your despair. Ps 18:16 “The Lord reached down from above and took hold of me; he pulled me out of the deep waters.”
The scientific world is often quick to condemn “faith and religion” as unscientific, and therefore of little importance, of little significance. The decades-long success of the AA to steer alcoholics toward sobriety, a program which is faith-based, speaks for itself.
When faced with our own mortality, it becomes necessary to tackle the difficult questions.
5 | Exercise—Trainer/Fitness instructor/Fitness buddy.
Exercise has an incredible ability to heal emotional, spiritual, and physical wounds—as well as heartache. It gives you focus. It empowers you. It gives you robustness. It lifts your mind and enables your soul to soar again. The only side-effect of exercise: you feel better!
6 | Consider changing your hairdresser.
Serious. I am convinced hairdressers should also study psychology. They often know more about people’s personal lives than their own relatives, family doctor or lawyers. May you have a good one who listens well and is wise!
7 | Become involved with other people.
Give of yourself. Volunteer. Give your time. Give emotionally. Trust me—your tank gets filled up again. Through giving you receive.
That is when you start seeing beauty. When you encounter possibilities. You learn contentment. Perhaps also learn acceptance. But never complacency. You learn about perspective and caring and healing and finding joy again in the mundane, the simple, the little, the seemingly insignificant.
What are your dreams? Never stop dreaming.
After all, what is the purpose of your life? Of mine? To survive? Yes. To have a good time? Perhaps. To make money. That as well. Then what? Find happiness. True. (What is happiness?) Become famous. (It’s fleeting.) What else?
Hope. Finding hope. Finding certain hope. Giving hope. We don’t have to chase a mirage. Finding beauty amidst the fracture lines and shards of our lives is possible. Flowers can bloom in a burnt veld.
Will you take the first steps along with me? Let’s look a bit closer… There is beauty.
Thank you for reading!
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IMG – Simon Espley – African Geographic