Thursday, May 20, 2010

149. Hope can't create miracles for us

As the Cleveland Browns participated in the NFL Draft, I recalled the power of hope. Hope not only gives us something to look forward to, a potential to rejoice in, but it also helps heal the current unpleasant situation. For Browns fans, the connection is obvious-the draft helps us put the past behind us. For Browns fans, it is a chance to look forward to something better, even if it is maybe a little unrealistic or exaggerated.

In the last election, hope was a powerful message-one that was central to President Obama's campaign. People were hurting-from the economy and jobs to the lack of healthcare and other social issues. Hope worked to relieve some of that pain, to bring passion to a depressed country . . . to bring the prospect of a better tomorrow. While we will debate the realization of that hope, its power as a political message is explicit. It is a pseudonym for change-for we do not want to change that which we are not hopeful to achieve.

However, there is more to the idea of hope-a pretentious side.

Hope can also be used as a measure of justification- ironically even delaying that which we are hopeful to achieve. When I was a child, my father, like most of us, was always either on a diet or ready to embark on one. Growing up, I cannot even count how many times we had that last unhealthy meal or made that last trip to the ice cream stand. Like nearly everyone trying to start a diet, there is that tendency to start a diet tomorrow, or on a Monday. Nobody ever starts a diet on a Friday night, right? Today, as an adult always on a diet or ready to embark on one, I can't help but laugh at myself each time I pledge to start my diet tomorrow. It's easy to do and I sound just like my dad.

Nevertheless, as much as there is hope that I will lose weight and look better, the crutch of the premise is that I am really looking to eat what I want today-without guilt. And not only can I eat guilt free, I can usually justify eating as much as I want. Hope allows me to shed that responsibility of eating healthy today; hope becomes that justification for doing the wrong thing-rather than doing that which will lead to the result that I actually seek.

We find this idea, not just in weight loss, but also in many endeavors of our lives. We use hope to start financial diets, or make commitments to our family. We may not always call it hope, most of the time it is a promise to ourselves or even a resolution. The idea that we will stop going out to dinner so often, stop smoking, quit drinking, or commit to spending more time with our family allows us to get through the day-and enjoy one last fling. It's a promise to ourselves that we hope to keep.

So whether it is a new quarterback, a new president or a new diet, hope is there to lead the way. It makes today more bearable as we look towards tomorrow. We all need hope from time to time. We just need to be careful not to make hope less likely or less available because of what we do today. We need to understand what hope is, for it is not capable of creating miracles-just believing something won't make it come true. Finally, we need to carefully consider the power of hope when we use it as justification to do what we want to today because each day we push into the future is one day less we'll have to enjoy the outcome.

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