Hope, Optimism, and Wishful Thinking
This topic’s goal is to have students explore and articulate the differences between hope, optimism, and wishful thinking.
At the beginning of the session, you can have students share their response to the journal prompt assigned at the end of Hope and Consolation. This can lead to a dialogue on hope, optimism, and wishful thinking:
- What are the similarities? Differences?
- What do you find lacking in wishful thinking?
- What do you find inspiring about hope?
- What role do you think optimism plays in our day-to-day lives?
Display the text of Romans 5:3-5 and 8:22-25, or provide it for students. Either read these passages together or have students read them on their own. Discuss:
- Romans 5 suggests that character gives rise to hope—what is the connection between character and hope? Between patience/perseverance and hope? How might we grow in character? Might that give us more hope?
- What does Paul mean when he says that hope will not put us to shame? Why might we feel ashamed of hoping? Why might that shame be misplaced?
- According to Romans 8, how is hope related to patience? What might patience have to do with how we approach the questions and challenges that arise at the intersection of faith and science?
- What have these texts added to students’ distinctions between optimism, wishful thinking, and hope?
You might close the discussion by affirming that the biblical narrative focuses on hope, not merely optimism or wishful thinking.