Hoping Beyond Hope

By Jim Rigby


There are times in one’s life when hope cannot be found in the usual sense of the word.  At those light-less times, hope does not mean “optimism,” it means remembering what it takes to remain a human being, and in doing it.

We humans can see some things in the dark that are invisible to the light of day. We recognize some virtues only when we are afraid or confused. Just as an actor enters the plot, not to gain personal victory but to manifest his or her great art, so we must view our own role in this sphere of shifting fate.

According to the ancients, the art of living consists in four classic virtues: courage, wisdom, temperance, and justice. The art of living consists in recognizing what happens to us does not happen to us alone, but is a larger stage where we are forging our common human destiny.

A prophetic hope moves by joyful sense of duty to all humankind, not by calculations of personal success. There is more joy in losing a noble struggle, than winning an ignoble one. So “hope,” as a spiritual virtue, is not confidence of personal success, but holding on to one’s highest duty and giving one’s best self to one’s highest cause.

It has been said the two rewards of an activist’s life are loving friends and living dreams. We may also add a third reward, the joy of giving our lives to our highest value without needing to be assured of success beforehand. “Hope” is the knowledge that our character does not depend on the wheels of chance, and that nothing can happen to rob us of our opportunity to manifest the virtues, or of the resulting joy.

Jim Rigby is a Presbyterian Minister at St. Andrews Church in Austin, Texas. In 2007, Jim was named “Texas Public Citizen of the Year” by National Association of Social Workers for his work on gender, economic, and racial issues. Jim has written for Huffington Post, Common Dreams, and many other sites, and his focus is on creating a deeper discussion of the relationship between religion and politics. Is it possible to affirm our different religious (and nonreligious) worldviews in ways that do not lead to intolerance and oppression, or does religion lead inevitably to superstition and sectarian violence? Can we affirm the core values of our own group, and yet, still be good citizens of the world? It is an open question. Jim argues that it is possible, if all religions are willing to go through radical reformations to align themselves to the best science available, to learn to honor artistic expression however different, and to serve universal human rights. Read more from Jim at his blog.


  1. So many are not living their highest intention in today’s world, Those who would set out to undermine our collective IQ are doing so by the encouragement of drug use. Deranged minds have planned the senseless slaughter of children, movie goers, and shoppers. And the Godless are trying to remove a cross from ground zero.

    So where is our hope? The power of the positive is much stronger than the negative.
    Witness countless doctors who give their lives to help their patients.
    Witness researchers who give their lives to finding cures for illnesses.
    And witness teachers who give their lives to protect their students.
    This is where hope abounds.