Practice These Principles
Living the Spiritual Disciplines and Virtues in 12-Step Recovery

The Virtue of Hope

Hope arises as a feeling when we construe, perceive, or see the future as holding favorable prospects for the attainment of a good we desire. It becomes a virtue when this way of seeing and feeling and the good we hope for become habitual dispositions shaped by the grace of God and grounded in his will for us.

First imparted by the witness of other alcoholics, hope is sustained by the promises embedded in the Steps that God will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, restoring us to sanity as we come to faith in him with Step 2, and gradually relieving us of our character defects and emotional liabilities as we surrender them and humbly ask him to remove them in Step 7.

Hope then works in unison with these: faith and humility, prayer and surrender.

[Image: Dr. William D. Silkworth (“Silky’), who treated Bill W. at Towns Hospital in NYC, introduced Bill W. to the idea that alcoholism was a disease, and wrote “The Doctor’s Opinion” in the Big Book.]

“Each day, somewhere in the world, recovery begins when one alcoholic talks with another alcoholic, sharing experience, strength, and hope.” – Big Book


“If that degree of humility could enable us to find he grace by which such a deadly obsession could be banished, then there must be hope of the same result respecting any other problem we could possibly have.” – 12&12 

“Lord, make me a channel of thy peace . . . that where there’s despair, I may bring hope.” – St. Francis Prayer


“Suffering produces endurance; endurance character; and character, hope.”
– Romans 5:3-4

“While there’s life, there’s hope.” – Cicero


“Without hope we live on in desire.” – Dante


“Hope springs eternal in the human heart.” – Alexander Pope

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind? – Percy Bysshe Shelley 

“Rules for happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.” – Immanuel Kant

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” – Albert Einstein


“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” – T.S. Eliot

“What we hope ever to do with ease, we must first learn to do with diligence.”
– Samuel Johnson

“Hope works in these ways: it looks for the good in people instead of harping on the worst; it discovers what can be done instead of grumbling about what cannot; it regards problems, large or small, as opportunities; it pushes ahead when it would be easy to quit; it "lights the candle" instead of "cursing the darkness." – Anonymous 

“Little progress can be made by merely attempting to repress what is evil. Our great hope lies in developing what is good.” – Calvin Coolidge  

“Yesterday is but a dream, tomorrow but a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day.” – Sanskrit proverb

“Never give out while there is hope; but hope not beyond reason, for that shows more desire than judgment.” – William Penn


“Man partly is and wholly hopes to be.” – Robert Browning


“The troublesome fact, the apparent absurdity which can’t be fitted into any synthesis we have yet made, is precisely the one we must not ignore . . . There’s always hope if we keep an unsolved problem fairly in view; there’s none if we pretend it’s not there.” – C.S. Lewis

"Hope is the struggle of the soul, breaking loose from what is perishable, and attesting her eternity." – Herman Melville

“Where there is no hope in the future, there is no power in the present.” – John Maxwell

“Hope depends on finding some end to be pursued more extensive than mere instant desire.” – Michael Oakeshott


“To be hopeful is not necessarily to expect the best possible outcome in any given situation, but it is to think and behave in a way that maximizes the chances for a good outcome. Hope envisions and works for a worthy end, recognizing whatever obstacles may emerge and developing strategies to overcome them.” – James S. Spiegel

“Hope is not merely our natural desire for happiness; everyone has that. Like faith, hope is our freely chosen affirmative response to a divine revelation: in the case of hope, our response to divinely revealed promises. Hope is faith directed to the future.” – Peter Kreeft

“Resignation is sort of a half-way house between hope and despair, a way of tolerating the future; hope a way of welcoming it.” – Robert C. Roberts

“There’s no way of getting through life unless you know how to get through suffering, and there’s no way of getting through suffering unless you have a living hope.” – Tim Keller

“Hope is a feeling, but it is more than a feeling when it reflects a deliberate way of seeing the world around us. Then it becomes a habit.” – William C. Mattison III

“The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church

“What we hope for, we are also willing to work for. If we hope to find someone to love, we try to make ourselves lovable by loving. We hope to be more just, generous, and forgiving, and so we work to be better human beings. We hope for peace on earth and try, in our own small ways, to make such peace a reality.” – Montague Brown

“Do not set all your hopes and desires on material things. . . . Set your hopes on spiritual things so that you may grow spiritually.” – Twenty-Four Hours a Day


"Gradually, as we become more God-centered than self-centered, our despair turns to hope." – Just for Today: Daily Meditations for Recovering Addicts

“So long as we cling to any hope that we can drink normally or that there is an alternative answer to our drinking problem, we will not surrender. Here too, the AA message is paradoxical: hope is born out of our admission of hopelessness.” – PTP

“If we practice these principles, we will receive the gift of faith, and with faith, the gift of hope. Faith and hope not in a temporary substitute that sooner or later will wear thin and fall short, but in the God who, the Promises assure us, can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves in the long journey of recovery.”  – PTP

For more PTP passages on hope, see pp. 76, 134, 138, 139, 154, 179, 210. For more BB and 12&12 passages, click on and search hope and its cognates.

Additional Resources

  1. Meditation for 04/29 in Twenty-Four Hours a Day

  2. Meditation for 06/04 in Al-Anon's Courage to Change

  3. “Hope,” chapter in Spiritual Emotions: A Psychology of Christian Virtues, by Robert C. Roberts. Includes helpful sections on relationship between hope and optimism, and suffering and hope

  4. "Hope," chapter by William C. Mattison III in Being Good: Christian Virtues for Everyday Life, Michael W. Austin and R. Douglas Geivett, Editors

  5. “The Virtue of Hope: Eternity in This Life and the Next,” chapter in Introducing Moral Theology: True Happiness and the Virtues, by William C. Mattison III

  6.  "Hope/Wish," in The One-Minute Philosopher, by Montague Brown. Makes useful distinction between hoping and wishing

  7. "Hope," in Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, Editors. Secular psychology view

For other posts on the virtues and the disciplines, please click on Practice These.