Hope can kinda stupid in the face of betrayal. It can feel naive. Weak. Passive. And yet, what do we have when we discover that the person we trusted most has betrayed that trust? What do we do with the pain? We can become brittle with anger and bitterness. We can become numb from self-protection. We can turn that anger inward and become depressed and anxious. Or we can hope. Not a passive cross-your-fingers kinda hope but a rolling-up-your-sleeves hope. The kind of hope that spurs us to seek help for our pain, that pushes us out of comfort zone to ask for support, that gives us the clear-eyed understanding that his bad behaviour doesn't define us. That his betrayal is not our shame to bear but his. Hope that we will not only survive this but triumph over it, to become stronger and wiser. "What I’ve observed from my own struggles and those of others is that in order to be hopeful people, we must constantly work at it," wrote Robert Hardies recently in The Washington Post. "...hope is like love. It’s not a once-and-for-all cure, it’s one of the most important ongoing spiritual projects of our lives. Hope is a journey. A difficult path through a beautiful and broken world." Hardies, a Unitarian minister, goes on to offer up lessons he's learned in cultivating his own hope. And while they apply to our larger world, they work for us in our private pain too. To help us recognize the courage inside each of us to ignite a spark of hope.
1. Start where you are and take one step at a time. Hopeful people, says Hardie, "take concrete action to make a difference, even if it’s a small difference." What might this look like in your life. Does it involve making an appointment with a therapist? Maybe it means sharing your pain with a trusted friend. Perhaps it's a daily commitment to walk, trying to notice the beauty around you and remembering that all things are temporary, including pain.
2. Cultivate a spiritual practice. For some of us, this means a formal religion but it doesn't need to. A spiritual practice includes anything that takes you outside of your experience and reminds you that you are part of something large and mysterious. You might find your spirituality in a grand cathedral with stained glass windows, you might find it on a yoga mat, your might find it in a basement following the 12 steps. You might find it in literature or music or in handing out lunch at a soup kitchen. The important thing is to connect yourself to something bigger than you, something that reminds you that you are only a small part of this world but that without you, the world loses some of its lustre.
3. Don’t make the journey alone. "We need companions for the journey of hope," says Hardie "The hopeful people are the together people. We’re on this journey together." It's no coincidence that so much healing takes place in this rag-tag club of betrayed wives. It's because hope is contagious. When hope is extended to others by way of affirming each other's pain, through sharing hard-won wisdom, through laughing together, through crying together, through rooting for each others' healing, it grows in each of us. If she can do it, we come to believe, then I can too. If healing is possible for others, then it's possible for me too. And it is possible. It is even probable when you practice roll-up-your-sleeves hope. When you refuse to accept defeat as an option. Betrayal will bring you to your knees. Rest there as hope takes root. And then rise again.