Monday, December 12, 2011

A Good Kind of Hopelessness

Sometimes abandoning hope is good and healthy.  In life, there are seriously finite limits to what we can accomplish and what we can handle.  Some of us burden ourselves beyond the point of emotional exhaustion and despair because we stubbornly refuse to admit this.  We don't want to say goodbye.  We don't want to admit it is hopeless.  We don't want to give up.  There is too much at stake.  There is too much emotional resistance.  There is denial, false hope, and the desire to live in a fantasy land where we tell ourselves that just around the corner, just over the horizon, is the change that we hoped for.

Sometimes there is good and virtue in hanging in there, in waiting (sometimes for years) for something to change, for God to show up, for good to come.  But other times, our false and misguided hope hangs around our neck like chains of death.  Sometimes, that aching longing makes the heart sick, and that sickness spreads through your bones like cancer, eating the life out of you and others around you.  It saps your hope in life itself, and it becomes a snare.  Sometimes, there is room for a reality check and hopelessness.

Good hopelessness is the realization that all of your efforts to try and change the situation or the person in that relationship with you or whatever have done nothing and will never do anything.  It is the realization that there is no hope, no power in anything you do, to produce what you want and wait longingly for.  What you see is what you get.  Nothing short of a miracle of God or a sudden epiphany in the other person will ever do anything to make things different.  It is what it is.

Coming to this realization can be very difficult, met with unparalleled emotional resistance, but it can also be very freeing.  Suddenly, that chain is loosed from your neck and, though you are now forced to grieve and face new challenges, there is the smell of change in the air -the smell of relief and the smell of hope.

Proverbs says that unmet longing makes the heart sick.  If you are in a relationship with a person, for example, and they are simply selfish and do whatever they want, whenever they want, regardless of how you try to endure it or how you try to communicate your frustration, it will make you sick (sometimes even physically) to carry the burden of hoping that if you hang in there more, if you do this more, or if you do that more, or if this or that would just happen, that they would finally snap out of it and be the person you wished they were in your relationship.  It will bog you down and, in an ironic twist, it may start to infiltrate the relationship through anger and passive aggression, making you look like the bad guy and vindicating them in their delusion of being without fault in their selfishness.  That unhappiness in you will permeate you and start to make its way onto others around you, and they will not like it. 

Sometimes, what is needed is a reality check and a healthy dose of hopelessness.  You won't change them, ever.  They aren't going to get it.  They aren't going to wake up.  Once this really sinks in, new options spring up in front of you.... ones that will not be motivated by a desire to produce certain reactions in the other person.  Your new options will be for you, for your path, as you let the fantasy die.  And sometimes you are able to look at the situation with clarity and realize that the other person has been telling you this all along: "I'm not going to change.  Take me like this or don't."

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