Monday, June 19, 2017
Is Hope Lying to You?
Over the years, I've heard often about a friend of my hiking friend. This friend of my hiking friend has had a heap of health problems, she's medically obese, her finances are a mess. And her husband has had a long string of affairs and visits to prostitutes and people on Craigslist.
She says she's finally ready to leave but has a long list of reasons why not quite yet. And it has been years of this. Years that have impacted her health. Years that have drained her finances. Years in which she has felt miserable and invisible and utterly devalued.
Her list for not leaving is long. Her religious faith dictates, at least in her mind, that marriage, even to a philanderer, is sacred, that lying (about, for instance, setting up her phone bank account, which he didn't allow) is wrong. But mostly, she's been held in place by hope.
Anyone who comes to this site knows that I'm fully supportive of staying in a marriage after betrayal when both partners are willing to do the work to rebuild. Or staying while you figure out your next right step. Or staying until you gather the money, education or whatever it is you need to leave.
What I struggle with is hearing about people who stay because they hope he's going to change. They hope things are going to be different. They hope that he will wake up, become a new man and they'll have their "old" life back.
Hope is "the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all," writes Emily Dickinson. "Where there's hope, there's life," wrote Anne Frank. "It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again."
But not always.
Sometimes hope keeps us where we don't belong. Sometimes hope tells us lies. That things will be different. That he'll change.
The problem is when hope is passive. When we cling to it like a life raft instead of swimming like hell.
Hope, as the saying goes, is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.
What this means is that hope makes demands on us. You're hoping he'll change? What evidence is there that this hope is well placed? You hope that your marriage will be stronger? What are each of you doing to make that happen? You hope that your kids won't be devastated by the impact of his affair? How are you supporting them or finding them support outside your home?
In other words, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Don't let hope do all the heavy lifting. Let hope inspire you to do some of the lifting yourself.
I'm all for hope. Especially when the word feels dark and hopeless. But pay attention to what hope is telling you. Is it making promises that depend on others to change? Is it keeping you small? Or is it reminding you that, no matter what, you are going to be okay? Cultivate hope that is active, that sings your song, that gives strength. That other hope? The type that keeps you rooted in place? That's just fear telling you a fairy tale. Use real hope to write your own happily ever after.