Hope vs. Optimism

Paul Raushenbush’s column responding to the historic passage of health care reform defines hope beautifully, regardless of which side of the health care issue you are on.  Here is an excerpt:

Now that this major victory has been won in Congress today, I realize that what I really had at the start of President Obama’s term was not hope, but optimism — and optimism won’t carry you very far in politics, faith or life. Hope is different than optimism. Optimism assumes that everyone will be happy clappy and go along with the program, and then crumples when they don’t. In contrast, hope inspires endurance, and requires serious work. Optimism is a luxury for those who can afford to lose. Hope is for people for whom there is no alternative but to persevere. It was not optimism that carried the great civil rights movements of the last century, it was hope that made a way when there was no way, and squeezed justice out of the bitter fruit of persecution. Hope is tied to a belief in something greater than oneself (if only the collective wisdom of humanity) that wills this world to be a better place. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote “Hope is the faith that, together, we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope is an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to have hope. Hope is the knowledge that we can choose; that we can learn from our mistakes and act differently next time. That history is not a trash bag of random coincidences blown open by the wind, but a long slow journey to redemption.”

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Published in: on March 22, 2010 at 2:22 pm  Comments (3)  
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