Ironic & True, Words Carry Many Meanings

Life is full of victory and disappointment. From the small things like considering how well a garden plant will grow, to considering how a model may (or may not) perform to personal relationships – some that develop fruitfully – others not so much, to outcomes of career choices and even to how we impact our country and world. I have noticed in our language, we have a word. A word that is always applied in supportive, positive and confident tones. It could be used in place of words like “faith”, “Knowledge” or “Confidence” in many of the same discussions and thoughts. Listeners would get the idea, because of the broad way in which we apply words in the English language. However, we don’t use it in place of those words. We won’t use it that way ever. In fact, using it in place of these words might even impugn or insult the reputation of someone. It suggests an undesired yet accepted likely outcome of failure.

Let me give you an example. John is faced with a difficult decision. On one hand he can choose “A” to benefit himself at the expense of another’s rights and property. On the other hand, at expense to himself he could choose “B” for which we would all agree is the honorable thing. We know John well and we know his character is above reproach. He’s trustworthy in the extreme, even when unobserved. If someone asked us what John will do, we can all confidently describe our prediction of his action. We might say things like, “We know he will do the right thing, he will choose B.” We might say, “We have faith (or confidence) John will make the right call, He’ll choose B.” These words carry with them our relative sureness of future events and the strength we see in John.

We use our subject word in another way however. Certainly you use it this way, yet I would suggest you might not have considered fully what you mean when you say it. When the reality of a situation is such that history, the facts, logic, your experience or the probabilities predict an unpleasant or unwanted result. We use another word to describe our desire for things to turn out favorably when consciously or subconsciously we know the result is likely to be unfavorable. Poor John, if all you can say for him is “I hope he will do the right thing.” Sad for your work if you hope to survive the layoffs. Sad for your business if you only hope to make a profit this quarter. Sad for everyone of us when all that is left is hope. Hope is a word of last resort, a salve, a word used to comfort us in advance of expected failure. It’s also a word of resignation, it always acknowledges lack of will to control or lack of control of a situation.

It’s not unlike the word “wish”. In fact, I’m not certain you could ever say it had any different meaning. I remember a lesson my late father would often repeat as I was growing up. When I was hoping or wishing out loud he’d ask me “If you put hope (or wishes) in one hand and shit in the other, what would you get?” Though the lesson seems crass outwardly, It doesn’t take too much thought to understand this lesson, it contains an important truth about life. That lesson was about replacing hope and wishes with action. If you want to avoid getting only a bunch of shit, forget about the hope and wishes, get out there and make your dreams come true, make it happen, do something about it.

My name is Dave Thacker, and I’m doing something about it.

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