The Hope Quotient, by Ray Johnston
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
At its heart, this is a book of positive (Christian) psychology, seeking to encourage people to take responsibility for their own lives and do what is necessary to increase the amount of hope that they feel by taking reasonable steps to build the groundwork for sustainable and realistic optimism that retains a faith in miracles and a better future and that can serve as the fuel for behaviors taken to create a better world. In general, the focus of this book can be seen as similar to and drawn ultimately from the goals of other writers who seek to encourage readers to focus on strengths, build the capacity for leadership in various realms, show an attitude of service towards those who are without, and build trust with others as a part of improving our relationships with God and fellow people .
Those who appreciate this sort of book, with its clear focus on personal and social responsibility, will find much to enjoy. The author is both deeply personal in discussing his own dysfunctional family background (full of divorce and alcoholism) as well as his Christian identity and also combines the strength of narratives to make his points (including the use of sources I am familiar with like Hillenbrand’s biography of Louis Zamparini or a reference to Chuck Norris’ life history as well as the wit and humor of C.K. Chesterton ) and a very careful organization that begins in its justification of the necessity for people to pay more attention to the cardinal virtue of hope (as well as it being under our responsibility to maintain and increase), along with a discussion of seven foundational factors that help to build hope (recharging batteries, raising expectations, refocusing on the future, playing to one’s strengths, refusing to go it alone, replacing burnout with balance, and playing great defense against discouragement) and then closing with a stirring appeal for people to use their increased hope to improve marriages, relationships with children, careers, congregations, communities, and the world. This is a book that is focused on both the relationship between man and God and then on the outgoing godly influence that a strong spiritual relationship has on our other relationships with human beings.
This is a book that is full of stories, many of which serve to give glory to God and also give praise to the larger social network of those who help enable our personal success , encouraging teachers and parents to give encouragement to children and point out the need to arm children and young people in general with the hope and optimism to change the world for the better. This book has a clear, if unspoken, interest in harnessing the energy and optimism of youth to overcome present and entrenched social evils ranging from endemic poverty and a lack of opportunity to child prostitution (among the more harrowing stories of this book are a village in Cambodia where 100% of girls were sold by their parents into sex trafficking and another where a mother whored out her two year old daughter to johns to pay for her drug habit but was too afraid of judgment and a lack of support to seek forgiveness at any church). Members of the Church of God will find much of interest in the book’s frequent and positive references to Azusa Pacific University .
There are other elements that make this a worthy book, including a keen grasp of history, and a focus on overcoming the past through a focus on the possibility of moral growth through hope in the power of God. Those who buy this book are able to take a free online version of a test to measure one’s Hope Quotient (HQ, modeled after the more familiar Intelligence Quotient, IQ, and Emotional Quotient, EQ), similar to the way that purchasing Strength Finder books  allows one to take a similar test. Whether this particular feature is a draw to many readers (it was a pleasant surprise to me, and something I would appreciate, being generally fond of personality tests) depends on their fondness of metrics and their desire to have a measure of their hope and optimism in life. At its heart, this is a book that encourages its readers to examine the state of their lives and the foundation of hope that they have, and to increase that hope and optimism with an outer directed focus on relationships and on leading to beneficent influence on the outside world, bolstered both by biblical examples as well as examples from the author’s personal life and other cultural and historical figures. It is a balanced approach and a very worthy book.
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 The author talks about his own position at Azusa Pacific as well as the fact that three of his children go there, and comments in a positive way about how the university sponsors a lot of service projects in less developed areas of the world. It would appear that the interest of the leaders of the former Worldwide Church of God in Azusa Pacific as a way of gaining legitimacy with a certain sector of the evangelical movement represented by the author did not include the desire to implement any of the university’s focus on service to communities but was rather undertaken for narrowly selfish grounds. In short, whatever doctrinal issues exist between the mindset of the university and our own community, the university has to some extent been viewed far more harshly than it would deserve in terms of its character as a mainstream ‘Christian’ university.