Several days ago while driving on the freeway, I was listening to a conversation on the radio between the host and her guest regarding some upcoming event (I don’t even remember what it was about). I was struck by the guest’s repeated use of the word “hope” as she described the various steps required for her organization to achieve its objectives. Her side of the conversation sounded like a wish list of grand desires, while the host kept asking about the likelihood that some of the more important steps would actually occur.
As I listened, I remembered something my wife’s grandmother used to say: “If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride”. I could almost hear “Grammy Dee’s” soft voice repeating that phrase as my mind drifted from the radio conversation to thinking about the words “hope” and “expect”. To me, these words convey something quite different, but I could think of several recent instances in which other people had used them interchangeably, so I decided to check the dictionary when I got home. What I found not only clarified the distinction, but also muddied the water with confusion.
The first thing I noticed is that every dictionary I consulted listed “hope” and “expect” as synonyms – as meaning the same thing. The definitions of each, however, only occasionally overlapped, and then only under specific conditions or assumptions. Here is a brief (selected) sampling of what I found:
- The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.
- To feel that something desired may happen.
- To want something to happen, with a sense of expectation that it might.
- (archaic/obsolete) To place trust in or rely on.
- To look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence [as in “to expect”].
- To anticipate or to look forward to something that is believed to be about to happen or come.
- To look for with some confidence.
- To look forward to; regard as likely to happen.
- To anticipate the occurrence or the coming of.
- To look for with reason or justification.
- To regard as probable or likely; anticipate.
In summary, “Hope” implies a wish that an event may take place. “Expect” implies confidently believing, usually for good reasons, that an event will occur. Interestingly, the concept of “hoping” plays a significant role in Greek and Norse (among other) mythologies as well as in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism (and others). “Expecting,” however, does not play such a role, although the usage of “hope” in religion appears to agree more with archaic/obsolete usage (which may include “expect”) rather than with the modern usage of the term.
Beyond this, however, it seems to me that there is another dimension of relevance to the spiritual seeker. Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to think of “hoping” as being more passive than “expecting.” In religion/mythology (one man’s mythology is another man’s religion as I see it – and vice versa), there tends to be a tone of passivity in the sense that spiritual growth, enlightenment, salvation, etc. is dependent on the whims of a deity (pleasing the gods, etc.) or simply following/obeying an intermediary between humankind and Source Energy (Buddhism being the most notable exception).
I’m not knocking religion at all. I’m simply making an observation that reliance on most religious perspectives tends to allow one to nestle into a “comfort zone” where there is much less emphasis on personal responsibility. Let’s face it: “grace” is much easier to deal with than “growth” for most people, and that is fine. In fact, I believe that such a perspective is exactly what many souls need in their current stage of soul evolution, but that is where religion and spirituality separate. Spirituality doesn’t deny religion; it simply goes beyond the confines of doctrine and dogma to affirm that, whatever helps a soul to grow toward alignment with Source, God, the Ultimate Being – whatever you choose to call that energy – is good, and that there are many paths to that end. As Maitreya has said, “. . . each soul has their own truth and awareness” (November 2, 2005); “. . . each soul is its own master. Each soul has its own truth.” (May 25th 2004); “The true person on the spiritual path lives their own life, seeks their own truth, and becomes their own master in that truth.” (May 9, 2006). If an individual’s truth includes a particular religious perspective, they can still learn to be master of their own life. Consider many of the greatest saints of any religion. These men and women learned to grow spiritually and become master of their own lives within their respective religious institutions. They conducted their lives with disciplined action, not passivity, and they remind me of a very relevant quote from a master of the martial arts: “Obey the principles without being bound by them.” (Bruce Lee, 1940-1973).
What does all this have to do with hoping or expecting? Over the past several newsletters I have written about how our thoughts create our reality, and more specifically about the Law of Attraction: what we think about, we attract into our lives. If the balance of our thoughts are negative, that is what we attract/create. If our thoughts are positive, we create more positive energy (people, things, events) in our lives. But if we simply hope for a more positive life, we are far less likely to create enough positive energy – enough momentum – to actually manifest our desires than if we do what is necessary to be able to expect those desires to manifest. Without doing our part, how can we reasonably expect those positive outcomes to occur? Philosophers (especially religious dogmatists) have long argued this point, but my understanding of the teachings of Maitreya (channeled by Margaret McElroy) and of Abraham (channeled by Esther Hicks) is that we must do the heavy lifting of spiritual development ourselves. We are blessed to receive an incredible amount of help from the world of Spirit, but they cannot do it for us. As Grammy Dee said, “If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.”
And what if the things we desire don’t manifest in the timely fashion most of us tend to demand – even if we put out a great deal of effort? There are many reasons why we don’t always get what we desire including karma, unlearned lessons, and the freedom of other people to make their own choices rather than caving-in to our demands. Last month I wrote about “The Wisdom of Surrender”, in which I discussed the notion that resistance to surrendering to the Higher Self is one of our biggest problems in spiritual development. That resistance is all about listening to and following the Self rather than the Higher Self part of us. One of the best ways to reduce this resistance is to learn to detach from the outcomes of our effort – in other words, to detach from whether we actually get what it is that we desire.
If we truly believe that there are no accidents (as both Maitreya and Abraham teach), and that “Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.” (Gautama Buddha), then what is most important for soul evolution is the effort and the expectancy of the outcome rather than the outcome itself. Attachment to the outcomes of one’s effort is all about the Self. Detachment is all about giving “no energy” to anything the Self wants (Maitreya). In other words, “Go with the flow.” That is the essence of surrender to the Higher Self. It knows far better than we (especially when we are under the influence of the Self) what is necessary and best for our soul evolution.
To summarize, if you really want to manifest your desires, hope alone is a not sufficient. Do whatever is necessary on your part to have a positive expectation that you will achieve those desires. Then detach from the outcome of your efforts. In short, “Expect the best, then go with the flow.”