When I was single, I was the unwitting recipient of false hope.
‘It will happen for you.’
‘You’ll meet someone.’
‘You’re gonna make some man very happy one day!’
And of course, the trump card from Christian friends:
‘God will not deny you the desire of your heart.’
The same thing happens to childless people as well. The sentiment of ‘God will not deny you’ is joined by platitudes of ‘Relax and it will happen’ and ‘Just keep trying’. All of which sounds loyal, encouraging and quite believable.
Except they aren’t.
No one can tell us what our future holds.
No one can tell us what our future holds. False hope is not real hope (seems obvious by definition, but we get so attached to hope, even when it is false). False hope sounds good, and might even feel good for a while, but when tested by time and trial it comes up empty.
False hope is not as helpful as it seems.
In this way, it’s a false economy. It’s like chasing the proverbial rainbow. We think that by offering false hope, we are doing our friends a favour. We don’t like seeing them miserable. We want to cheer them up, to encourage them, to stir their faith. I am sure my friends were only trying to encourage me when I was single.
But it didn’t help.
I am sure my friends were only trying to encourage me. But it didn’t help.
Their intended message was, ‘Marriage is a sure thing for you because you’re great!’ But what I heard was, ‘You should be married like everyone else, but you’re not, so there must be something wrong with you.’ I felt discouraged and helpless. I felt worse instead of better.
False hope does no favours. It can actually heighten feelings of depression and despair. I have found it’s wisest to steer clear of false hope altogether. That means not promising things you can’t deliver, like them getting married or having kids. There’s no way you can personally guarantee that.
I am opting for painful honesty instead.
I am opting for painful honesty instead. This involves responses more like:
‘I don’t know much about that.’
‘I hope it will happen for you, but I have no way of knowing if it will for certain.’
‘Wouldn’t have a clue.’
‘I wish I knew.’
‘Only God knows.’
And my favourite:
‘I don’t know—but I’m going to walk beside you the whole way.’
I join that person in the pain of not-knowing, the agony between wanting and having, seeking and finding. I don’t walk away and leave them. I hang in there with them, knowing how hard it is to want marriage and children and not be able to have them. I keep loving them, regardless of what happens. Just as I would want them to do for me.
I hang in there, knowing how hard it is to want marriage and children and not have them.
That hope, the hope of genuine connection and support and enduring friendship, is real—and much more helpful.
Have you been given false hope by well-meaning others, or have you given false hope yourself? What was the result? What difference does honest support make? What helps you to feel genuinely hopeful in difficult situations? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.