The Dangerous Side of Hope

The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

In a world that can be dark and brutal and unfair, hope is one of our most powerful weapons. It can also be a weapon used against us, to keep us from changing our lives.

In the movie version of The Hunger Games, the screenwriters chose to pull back the curtain and give us a look at what was happening with President Snow and the game-makers while Katniss was in the arena. (I love that they did this.) In one scene, President Snow summons Seneca Crane, the head game-maker, and asks him an unusual question.

“Seneca,” he says, “why do you think we have a winner?”

Seneca frowns. “What do you mean?”

“If we just wanted to intimidate the districts, why not round up twenty-four of them at random and execute them all at once? It would be a lot faster.”

Seneca doesn’t know how to answer.

President Snow almost smiles. “Hope. It’s the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. Spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.

President Snow realized what most of us don’t. Hope, like many other great things, has a dangerous side.

A little hope is what keeps us in a bad job, a bad relationship, or any bad situation. We have just enough hope that we tell ourselves if we stay long enough something might change. We might get that promotion, that raise we deserve. They might realize how wonderful we are and treat us better.

For all the people in the districts in The Hunger Games, seeing one victor gave them just enough hope that their lives might get better if they persevered long enough. That little thread of hope kept them controlled.

But a lot of hope is what freed them. And it’s what can free us.

Because Katniss didn’t play by the Capital’s rules, and because she succeeded due to daring to try something different, she gave the people of the districts a bigger hope. A hope that said they could change things rather than waiting for something to change.

A little hope convinces us to wait, that if we’re patient, things will naturally change for the better. A lot of hope convinces us to act, that if we take the initiative, we’ll be able to have something better than what we have now. It tells us we’re strong enough, smart enough, valuable enough, brave enough. It tells us we can change our circumstances if we’re willing to take a risk.

Those of you who come to my blog regularly know my husband and I have decided we’re tired of having just a little hope. It’s time for a lot of hope. So he’s going back to school, and I’m self-publishing (first book will release next month if all goes well!), and yes, we’re both afraid. Terrified really.

But hope is stronger than fear.

What risk have you taken lately in the hope of making your life better?

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