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Opinion: Covid-19 is terrible but we will prevail

PUBLISHED: 08:30 24 May 2020

Elwin Cockett, Archdeacon of West Ham, explores Stockdale Paradox during lockdown.

Elwin Cockett, Archdeacon of West Ham, explores Stockdale Paradox during lockdown.

Elwin Cockett

Covid-19 is making a mockery of all our hopes, but we will prevail.

Newham has been as badly-hit as anywhere by the pandemic. The reality of life for many people is pretty grim right now.

Many are worried about the future. Others are trying to blank it out. Neither is the right thing to do.

You might have heard about the Stockdale Paradox named after a POW who survived eight years imprisonment. When asked which of his fellow prisoners struggled to make it out alive he replied, surprisingly, “the optimists”.

“They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart….”

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So the Stockdale Paradox is the ability to hold two opposing but equally true things at once: We should not flinch from the hard facts of our current reality, but we should not give up hope that, one day, we will prevail.

There’s another prisoner who is less well-known, and who spent half his life on death row until it was decided that he had been wrongfully convicted.

His name is Damien Echols, and he said that what kept him sane was realising that he could not live for the future. He could not spend his life wondering when his nightmare was going to be over. He had to live for that day.

Jesus said: “who by worrying can add a single hour to the span of their life? So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

It is a waste of energy to worry about tomorrow when we have no idea when all this will end. We cannot base our happiness on what might or might not be.

Covid-19 is terrible, but we will prevail. Some loved-ones will be lost to us, but we will prevail. Some of our plans for the future will not happen but we will prevail. The thing is, we will not make the future better by worrying. All we can do is to live today as well as we can.


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