I’ve posted about hope, and then most recently about gratitude.  So today we deal with something more difficult –  our times of despair.

The word despair comes from the French word “desespoir” meaning no hope or lack of hope.  Despair is the lack of hope.

I go through times when my heart is heavy. The hope I felt earlier is gone. Perhaps I am grieving the loss of a loved one. Or perhaps some event in the news or in my personal life has rocked me and the hope I felt is gone.

And when I talk with folks I know, they also go through these times of despair.

Based on this, and my own life experience, reading and reflection, I believe these times of despair are a part of the human condition.

Further, I believe we are called to fully experience our feelings of despair and hopelessness. Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, in their excellent book Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without going Crazy recognize this.  They describe a four stage spiral that begins with gratitude, then recognizes our pain for the world and our feelings of despair, and finally flows into seeing the world with new eyes and taking action.

To make this process work, we must take the full time needed to be present with the pain.  We do not want to get stuck in despair.  However, we do not want to glide past it either.

Macy and Johnstone call this four stage spiral the “Work that Reconnects” when we do it consciously and with intent. They use this name because they recognize the feelings of being disconnected, frozen, and/or lost arise when we have tried to glide past or deny our pain and our despair.

There’s lots more to say about this – another time.

For now, I hope and pray we all find loving and wise communities to hold us in our times of despair and help us reconnect and restore hope.


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