Hope in action

During live TV, in a two-hour ‘Good Morning America’ special, a research Academic interested in the science of ‘Hope’ did an experiment. Rick Snyder wanted to demonstrate ‘Hope Theory’ in action.

On national television, Rick had 3 people assist him; the show’s host, a medical expert, and the show’s weather guy. The test was to dunk their right fist into the bottom of a tank of freezing water for as long as they could stand the discomfort.

It was a battle of wills, not too dissimilar to the games we’ve seen in the TV series ‘Survivor’. After a short while, the weather man removed his hand, shaking it to bring back some warmer blood flow to relieve the bitter coldness. Then it was game-on between the host and the medical expert. The show cut to a commercial. The host seemed oblivious to the pain and remained calmly engaged in the experiment.  He wasn’t going anywhere. The advert break provided the medical expert an opportunity to bail-out, and desperately seek warmth for his freezing fingers.

Rick asked the audience what the experiment had to do with hope. He then began sharing the connection between hope and pain tolerance. He revealed the 3 people in the experiment has completed a hope-scale prior to the show, which allowed for their scores to be ranked. The hope scale they completed accurately predicted how long each of the participants would be able to withstand the numbing pain of the cold water, before calling it quits.

To the casual observer, this may have looked ‘lucky’. As a side-note interest, Rick had suffered from chronic, debilitating pain for the last 15 years of his life. He had multiple surgeries and aggressive treatments. They did little to curb the burning pain he experienced daily. He remained hopeful and influenced others around him to enjoy their life.

You can read about ‘Hope Theory’ if it interests you. In a nutshell, it’s about the pursuit of goals. It proposes that the successful pursuit of desired goals results in increased positive feelings. These positive feelings cause you to pursue your goal/s even more. Good feelings cause more good feelings. Rick’s research suggests ‘hope’ has no hereditary (genetic) links, rather is a learned way of thinking that helps us be more likely to achieve goals.

In research language; ‘strong attachment’ by caregivers (i.e. strong family love) is critical for imparting hope. This is backed up by many studies (e.g. Shorey, Snyder, Yang & Lewin, 2003). Traumatic events during childhood are linked to lessening hope (Rodriguez-Hanley & Snyder, 2000). The inference is that children experiencing trauma may find it harder to be hopeful.

Benefits of Hope

Hope scales have predicted better outcomes in academics, sport, physical health, and psychological wellbeing. In addition, higher Hope Scale scores are aligned with elevated happiness, increased satisfaction, positive emotions, and getting along with others. These insights are well documented in empirical, peer reviewed, credible studies.

We are a Community of Hope

Christmas is a story of hope. It affects how we see the world. A child is born. His name is Jesus. His father and mother realise he is God’s most precious gift to the world. It is the beginning of creating the trinity of God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. Christianity is born. And what of the story?

The Bible tells us that Jesus was born so we could become right with God; that each of us could have a personal relationship with God himself. Jesus himself said: ‘I’ve come that that they might have life, and that they might have it abundantly’ (John 10:10).

In Macbeth, Shakespeare commented of life: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” I don’t know about you, but reading Shakespeare’s observation makes me feel like having a large bowl of Allbran, topped up with 2kg’s of dates, and washed down with a big jug of prune-juice!

What a contrast to Jesus encouragement that we can experience an abundant life. Beyond hedonism (simple up-beat feelings), I understand Jesus words to be about the kind of bone-deep, sustainable satisfaction (joy) that happens when we seek to honour God. Maybe Rick’s ‘Hope Theory’ research can give us some further insight.

If we have hope, we are more likely to achieve goals that are important and valuable to us. Maybe pain and times of discomfort are part of the journey towards gaining a sense of deeply experienced satisfaction; that is, achieving a worthwhile goal. An example could include the things we do, or don’t do, to strengthen important relationships; especially within our families, with friends, within our peer groups, and in our workplace communities. For our children, good relationships is a worthy goal. Friendships are an important key to their satisfaction and success at school.

A Christmas Message

As a child, my dad encouraged me to learn one particular Bible verse. It was/is John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” My dad was a Baptist Pastor. In retirement, he still serves in a pastor’s role with the elderly. Upon reflection, I think he knew that John 3:16 explains Christianity. The Bible verse communicates a life-long message of hope, in a loving God who wants us to be in relationship with Him for eternity.

I hope for you, Christmas is a reminder to be hopeful. Evidenced by research, I don’t think it is by chance that we are designed in a way to experience greater life satisfaction when we have hope in the things that matter. South Coast Baptist College is grounded in a Christian message of God’s unconditional love, and the hope that we have in His Son Jesus.

As for this year, I am grateful for our wonderfully dedicated staff, in every area of our college’s life. All of us have much to look forward to in 2019.

His unconditional love gives us cause to have hope in every area of our lives.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Des Mitchell