Six secrets of conscious hope

When the future becomes harder to face, how do some people continue to live and act out of hope, conscious of pervasive violence and injustice?

I’ve been sitting down with people who work with hope in the face of difficulty. Among them are people with experience of being a refugee, homeless, or bereaved; people who work to support others, such as community workers and therapists; and people working for social change. I tell some of their stories in an eight-part series on the Hope’s work blog.

All the people who’ve spoken to me appear to have six ‘core conditions’ in common, which together sustain their hopeful way of being.

Alive to the world

When events seem distant and reduce us to spectators, how much do we still feel present to them, like witnesses, knowing that those events make a claim on how we might live?

What do we need to stay alive to the life of the world?

A feeling for promise

‘There are individuals… holding the humane tissue alive in areas of ultimate barbarity where things are visible that the human eye should never see and they’re able to sustain it because there is in them some kind of sense of beauty that knows the horizon that we’re really called to…’ John O’Donohue, poet

When the talk is all doom, how familiar are we with the world as a place of vitality, generous in delight, striving to flourish?

What do we need to receive the promise of the world more openly?

Facing tragedy

‘Hope… you have to face the tragedy of the world.’ Basma Bodabos, student and refugee

When tempted to hide from the world as a tragic place, how ready are we reckon with the violence that makes it that way, be it physical, economic, cultural, ecological, or any other kind?

Where does the courage to face up to violence come from?

Reading change

‘The world is always being made and is never finished.’ Rebecca Solnit, writer and activist

When the structures of power seem like a brick wall, how attentive are we to a world in process, more like a forest, in which the power of every participant counts?

What do we need to notice the ways things change, and so read the world as an ecology of power?


‘Even in a broken world, things aren’t fully broken.’ Hannah, community worker

In a time of losses – when the prospect of tomorrow is hard to face – how committed are we nonetheless to living for what has worth today?

What do we need to hold faith with what matters in the present, whatever the future may bring?


‘Salvation is always social.’ Monica Coleman, theologian

When the challenges ahead seem overwhelming, how open are we to holding hope in common, accompanying one another in the work?

What do we need to assume our own share of hope’s work, while trusting others to play theirs?

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