How to give high school students perspective and a sense of hope during troubled times.
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” – The Talmud
It has been a tough few years for many people. The squeeze across the world financially looks to deepen for the foreseeable future. Mental illness, war, loneliness, and the lack of the ability to socialise effectively is hampering relationships and negativity abounds.
But just like there are no straight rivers, life has never been a straight path. Many people look at life like it is one big struggle. They say things like. “Why does this always happen to me?” and “Why is life so hard?” They adopt the philosophy of Sisyphus, condemned to a life of pushing a rock up a mountain only to have it roll back down every time he reaches the top.
The truth is that if your life was all sunshine and roses, you would be bored. What makes your life interesting is the tension, the obstacles and the challenges you must overcome.
My recommendation would be for you to see life, not as a struggle but as a story full of new paragraphs, chapters and episodes. Whilst this chapter might not be your best moment, the following three could be incredible!
We all have a fight. The question is, are you going to face your fight or run away? Only you can fight your fight and you must always remember that the height of your joy is tied to the depth of your struggle. So slow down your evaluations and your idealistic judgments and ride this river with the thrill of hope in your heart.
Anchor yourself to hope. Hope is not an emotion; it is a learned behaviour and by its very nature can only exist in the future. It is like throwing your soul into tomorrow and saying, “Wait for me, I’m on my way!” Endeavour to filter every situation you find yourself in through the lens of hope.
Below are three ways to unlock the thrill of hope during this Christmas season.
1. Be Love
Love is the aspiration for all things to flourish. Conduct your life in a way that every time you enter a room, people are enlivened by your ability to make them feel more confident, accepted and validated.
Yeshua, the great spiritual teacher went even further when he said, “Love your enemies” or translated ‘Don’t wish your enemies harm’, whether that is in a playground, car park, online or any other place you feel frustrated, disrespected, or invalidated. The advice is to love your enemies.
In our modern age, this is probably the most counter-cultural message we’ve ever encountered. In our era, many people would rather win an argument than be right. But to make someone feel respected even though they offended you, is an act of grace.
Malachy McCourt once said, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Let it go and live with peace. It would be better for everyone if we conducted ourselves in a way that caused the people who surround us to flourish. In the pursuit of a frictionless society, we have lost the patience and discomfort that great relationships demand.
2. Be Kind
In the classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (which I recommend everyone should read at least once in their lifetime) his first principle is not to criticise, condemn or complain. In other words, be kind to others and to yourself.
We should never miss an opportunity to do acts of kindness for others. On a recent trip interstate, the elevator to the ground floor was out of order and an elderly woman was having trouble getting onto the escalator with her bag. She made a few attempts but kept hesitating, concerned she might fall. As she stepped back, I watched as at least seven people pushed past her. I stopped and asked if she would like some help as even more people pushed past us. She didn’t feel comfortable stepping onto the escalator due to a bad hip, so I carried her bag down the stairs as she steadied herself by holding onto my shoulder. She was ever so grateful, and I was even more happy to help. Each day aim to do something that will make someone smile.
The boost you receive from being kind is amazing. In a world that is raging with anger online, and in the media, kindness is a vanguard of hope. If the journey of your life isn’t meaningful, what makes you think the ending will be?
And this from one of the greatest orators of all time, Sir Winston Churchill “Hear this, young men and women everywhere, and proclaim it far and wide. The earth is yours and the fullness thereof. Be kind but be fierce. You are needed now more than ever before. Take up the mantle of change. For this is your time.”
3. Be the Light
“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” – Richard Rohr
Despite the fact there is real darkness in our world. There are always people creating light and making positive impact.
You can do this by first lighting up your own inner narrative. Your inner narrative is one of the most important factors in your success. The words you repeat to yourself can either hold you back or propel you forward.
If you find yourself caught in a cycle of negative self-talk, it’s time to change the channel. Every day, choose to feed your mind with positive affirmations and empowering words. Imagine the life you want to live, and then speak it into existence.
Remember, your brain is malleable. It adapts to the thoughts you expose it to. So why not expose it to thoughts of possibility, potential, and greatness?
My wish for you is that you become the most powerful version of yourself. Powerful people are not delusional. They do not believe they are perfect at everything all the time. That is not what makes them mentally strong. The powerful are very aware of their strengths and weaknesses. They focus on their strengths and use them to light up the world.
Desmond Tutu said, “Hope is being able to see there is light despite the darkness.”
As we say goodbye to 2023, let us also say goodbye to fear and hello to hope.
Visit The HopeFull Institute to find out more about Glen’s presentations and mission to change the lives of students.