The following story, “If Hopelessness Is Trending in Your Head,” was originally published on JohnPavlovitz.com.
We all have things trending in our heads at any given moment; words that occupy the daily bandwidth of our thoughts and monopolize our attention as we move through the world. These words become the lenses through which we see everything — our worth and significance, the day set before us, the life we want now, the future well beyond us.
The things trending in our heads have incredible power to lift or derail us in the present and so we need to make sure of something: we need to make sure they’re not lies. We need to be certain that we do not begin to believe as gospel, what may not actually be true — lest we build our sense of peace and security in this day on something fraudulent.
When I look around right now I see many people for whom hopelessness seems to be trending; those worn down by a seemingly limitless stream of bad news, exhausted from their neverending battles; people depleted and bitter and concluding that there is little reason to keep going.
Friend, if you’re there, I want you to know that I understand. I’ve been living alongside you there far too often, and that’s why I want to tell you the truth in a lucid moment: hopelessness doesn’t deserve to have the top spot in your head. It is not worth the joy it displaces. That hopelessness is a liar.
The bad news has a way of staying with us. We see things that outrage or terrify us, and we sticky note them so that they are forever in front of us, ever reminding us of how terrible it all is. We do this day after day, gradually accruing the evidence for why we should despair; seeing only the hurtful people, only the acts of violence, only the failures of humanity. The faces and the names and the images that discourage us become artificially magnified.
And all the while, we let goodness fly beneath the radar of our awareness; we allow countless acts of mercy and displays of courage and affirmations of decency come and go without acknowledging them, dwelling on them, metabolizing them into our hearts and being strengthened to keep going. We don’t allow ourselves to see the infinite reasons to have hope. I want you to see them.
The truth is, dear friend: there are far more people in this place working for equality, diversity, love, and justice than opposing them — and it isn’t even close. There are hundreds of millions of people in this world who (just like you) wake up every day trying to be the kind of person the world needs; lavish with compassion, overflowing with generosity, relentless with love. You are, even when you’re not aware of it, surrounded on all sides by like-hearted people who are not okay with the suffering around them either.
That isn’t to say that there isn’t a great deal to grieve over or be alarmed by or pissed off about — it just means that these things aren’t stronger than the massive, sprawling army of those who grieve, who are alarmed, who are pissed off. It means that you are in good and plentiful company in your profound not alrightness; that the vast majority of people feel as burdened as you are to make better days. This is the story you need to tell yourself because it is the truest one.
So today, take down the sticky notes of disappointment and fear and violence, so that you’re able to see the landscape clearly. Scan the horizon for the builders, the lovers, the helpers, the healers — and allow them the precious bandwidth they deserve.
Let yourself be encouraged by the awesome, beautiful brilliant goodness that still occupies this place, and let a new word to ascend to the top spot of your mind, where it belongs.
May Hope trend in your head today.