Growing Edges: Keeping Hope Alive: Radical Courage in Everyday Life Part 3

Humanly speaking, despair is presumptuous.*

Several years ago, I a conference on hope at the Texas Medical Center in Houston.  Sponsored by what was then the Institute of Religion, the topic of hope and its importance were addressed by a priest, a pastoral counselor, a minister. a [physician, a nurse and various professionals in the area of mental health.  Dr. Bruce Perry addressed the issues of hope and hopelessness in children, especially those who had experienced trauma, neglect or abuse.  To this day, what Dr. Perry said impacted me profoundly and forever.

Dr. Perry is an author and a psychiatrist and is currently the Senior Fellow of the Child Trauma Academy in Houston.  He is a leading authority on the treatment of childhood trauma.

Besides explaining how childhood trauma, neglect and abuse can affect the process of brain development in children, Dr. Perry brilliantly laid out in his presentation what happens when a child loses hope.  Hopelessness in a child can affect a child’s ability to survive, and certainly, to thrive.  When a child loses hope, Perry said, the child dies.

In the first column in this series of columns on Keeping Hope Alive, I mentioned that we who are the adults in the world and especially in a child’s world have a responsibility to speak hopefulness and act with hope, and I suggested that while we do that for ourselves, we do it because the children of our world are watching.  They take their cues from us.

In this column I want to emphasize that I believe that hope, unlike wishful thinking or wishing on a star, is a profound spiritual grace.  I will write more about that as at a later time.


As my mentor and friend Madeleine L’Engle used to say, “The great thing about growing older is that you can still be all the ages you have been.”

In the language of  Transactional Analysis, each of us has within us an adult, a parent and a child. and at any given time, any one of us can be acting from either of those positions.

I am suggesting that the adult, hopefully rational and responsible part of ourselves needs to live and think and speak in such a way as to keep hope alive for the child who still lives in us.   I have seen that when an adult is traumatized that adult can lose the energy and sometimes even the ability to survive and thrive.  When the inner child is hurting and is traumatized severely or over a long period of time, the person can, regardless of her age, become hopeless.

When an adult loses hope, she stops growing and learning.

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