Hope’s Beautiful Daughters…

Posted by on Aug 1, 2019 in Blog | 7 comments

Hope’s Beautiful Daughters…

It is alleged that St Augustine said that hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage. Without these, Augustine argued, hope comes to nothing.

Why these two daughters? (And although off the point, why daughters? Don’t we usually see anger and courage as male qualities? Clearly Augustine didn’t, and perhaps his 5th century wisdom should cause us to reflect on where we most often spot valid expressions of anger and courage). 

Returning to our question – why these daughters?

Take anger…

Instinctively we default back to the status quo. While we might quietly wish that things were different, the energy required to implement change is significant. It is only when something sparks us to get across our natural inertia that we actively work to make things happen. Sometimes the trigger for this is anger. 

Now some might read the word anger and wonder why it is being encouraged on a Christian blog, and indeed by a theologian as notable as Augustine. But while many forms of anger are toxic and to be renounced, the Bible is clear that it is perfectly possible to be angry without sinning. Indeed, we can go further. Not to be angry in the face of injustice, suffering, exploitation and a range of other evils, is sinful. God is angry in the face of human sin – and it is His anger against sin that ultimately sees sins defeat. When evil rises, it is not anger that is the inappropriate response, it is passive acceptance. Turning the blind eye to what is going on is the death of hope – how will things change if no one actually cares?

Of course there are many forms of false anger. Some people are angry about everything, and while they give noble names to the cause of their anger, you quickly sense that these are invalid, and that the actual cause for the anger lies within, with a 100 unresolved issues, personal pains, disappointments, thwarted ambitions and petty jealousies. There is nothing commendable about false anger – and it destroys hope, because if you are angry with everyone else for what is your own baggage, a resolution is a long way away.

A little test of anger is to ask the “on whose behalf?” question. If I am angry on behalf of something that primarily impacts others rather than me, my anger might be valid. If my anger motivates me to work for the other, and to help the other, it might have a noble source. If I am simply angry about what has happened to me, I might be justified, but I might also be self absorbed and quicker to notice the wrong done to me than I am to note the wrong I do. True, there are exceptions to this (and we should be angry about some things that happen to us) – but if our anger is almost always about me, myself and I, a little red light should be flickering.

If anger has a role in birthing hope, what about the other beautiful daughter – courage? 

Now it is true that courage belongs to the people of God. When you encounter the risen Jesus, life’s greatest fear dissipates. Yes – they can kill me, but so what? Followers of Jesus move not so much from life to death but from life to life. The courage that this conviction has birthed has sparked a multitude of willing martyrs. 

Talking of martyrs, remember that in the face of many who died for their faith, the early Christians differentiated between those they called “white” martyrs and “red” martyrs. White martyrs were those who through their sacrificial life and loyal service to Jesus had “died” to their own agenda, and lived for the agenda of God. “Red” martyrs were those who sealed this obedience by their willing death for their faith. And as the early Christians noted, there was never a  “red” martyr who was not first a “white” martyr.

For all this talk of willing martyrdom, let’s remember that courage is not about the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to act in spite of fear. It is the act of placing oneself in the hands of God, knowing that ultimately His are the safest hands of all. It is Jesus, at Gethsemane, praying desperately that his dreaded cup of suffering be taken from him, but then making the courageous commitment, “nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done”. That courage took him to Calvary – and my, that courage has birthed hope for us all.

So when will hope be birthed? According to Augustine, when good people, filled with righteous anger, place their trust in the resurrected Jesus, and allow the courage that births to spur them to build a flourishing world – one directed by valid hopes and dreams, rather than a stunted world, lived in the shadow of crippling fear and disabling passivity.

As always, nice chatting…

PS The full Augustine quote is: Hope has two beautiful daughters: Their names are anger and courage. Anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain as they are.

A disclaimer – there is a fair chance it wasn’t Augustine who said this, even though you will find the quote attributed to him in 100’s of Google searches. But the sentiment is interesting regardless. It’s rather like the famous St Francis quote: “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary” – which Francis almost certainly did not say.


  1. Thanks Brian for this. Very encouraging. I hope to see you in Perth in a couple of weeks too.

    • Thanks Phillip. Look forward to catching up when you are in Perth. It’s been a while.

  2. Hi Brian, I had to learn that ‘anger without sinning’ as a Pastor helping others and as a missionary when Chairing a tough Church meeting. Good word. It also comes out for Aid and Peace workers who see so many tough situations that they have to address. It is hard to turn anger into constructive behaviour. Cheers

    • Thanks Steve. It is indeed tough, which I guess is why Augustine links anger and courage. Thanks for the excellent example you have set.

  3. Can you give a citation in Augustine’s corpus? Or the Latin original?

    I am almost certain that this attribution is as false as it is inaccurate.

    • Thanks for the alert Joshua. Looks like you are probably correct. From a quick search it seems as though it is quoted (perhaps inaccurately) in William Sloane Coffins “The Heart is a Little to the Left” – and that it gained momentum after that. I guess I am a bit of pragmatist, and find the sentiment interesting regardless of who said it – though accept that it has greater historical interest if it was Augustine. I’ve edited the post to add a qualification. Thanks again.

      • Brian, you are welcome.

        I agree that the statement is both thought-provoking and lovely.

        As a historian, however, it always irks me when someone fabricates a false attribution to give a sheen of authority to an idea. Why not just make the one’s own statement as one’s own statement?

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