By Tammy T. Stone
Faith can be a divisive issue, in a world already pretty divided.
If we take faith to mean a belief in some form of higher power—probably the most common use of the term—we have on the one hand people who are willing to die for their faith, and those who feel ardent believers are quite literally out of their minds for having faith in something that is ultimately unknowable.
We’ve witnessed how ideological clashes between members of different faiths, as they’ve manifested in the religions of the world, have led to war and bloodshed in the of name defending or standing by a faith that has, quite frankly, not asked to be defended.
It’s an unfortunate but natural consequence of a world fueled by separation and the drive to power, by the narratives of “my/your” “this/that” and “here/there,” that our belief systems will follow suit and divide where they might just as easily unite.
That faith can wear many beautiful, diverse coats is a thing to be celebrated; we have so much to learn by embracing the rich diversity among us. However, if we place diversity in the context of separation and forget to encompass the whole, and ourselves, the rest fritters away in a sea of senselessness.
It is time to reclaim what is beautiful about faith, which is, as we know, an idea and not a concrete entity. As such, it is more elusive, but also potentially more powerful as it hovers in the background, exerting tremendous force.
Do these some common everyday phrases sound familiar?
I have total faith this diet will work.
I have faith in the government to protect and serve us.
I have faith that things will go the way they should.
I have faith that the apple will fall from the tree.
I have faith that the odds will work in my favour.
I have faith in this art project I’ve started.
I have faith in you; you can do it.
I’ve been thinking about these lately, wondering what’s missing.
The common denominator in all these imaginings about faith is that we are almost entirely left out of the equation.
When we talk about faith in this vein of goodwill and hope, we are ultimately projecting it outward, either toward God or gods, or toward the environment around us.
However, we are placing the agency of this hoped-for outcome outside of ourselves. In psychology, this is called having “an external locus of control.” We don’t all do this all the time, but odds are we’ve caught ourselves from time to time shifting our faith away from ourselves and onto something or someone else, as though awaiting a savior.
Why do we so rarely express having faith in ourselves?
Acknowledging that we are not alone in the universe is a wonderful thing. We learn about interdependence in Buddhism, and “dependence arising”—how the existence of every single being depends on other beings. Being grateful and full of compassion for all beings in our interconnected web is essential on the path toward our liberation or actualization; it’s both brave and natural for us to depend on others, just as we’d like to be there for them.
At heart, we want more than being rich or successful, than being right or the best.
I think it’s really beautiful that we have this opportunity to live in a world where we are aiming to unite with our highest possible selves along with other beings coming from a place of pure intention. It’s nothing short of miraculous to me that we have the opportunity to engage with our lives and work toward peace and harmony in this way.
The danger is when we start depending on anyone but ourselves to get the proverbial thing done, whatever that thing may be, and when we stop trusting the vastness of our abundant inner resources.
How can we truly be there for others if we don’t trust ourselves to be the best possible version of us?
They say that on your spiritual path, your teacher will come when you are ready. I often interpret this to mean that we have to walk many (many!) miles with great intention, and yes, faith, that we will be aided on our journey once we have arrived at a place where we know where we want and need to go.
We need to have faith that we can we celebrate who we are at any given moment as we carry ourselves to that point of meeting the world, the universe, our teachers, when the time comes.
We want to have faith in our having entered the world fully equipped to make a beautiful life, despite the untold challenges we will face, when our faith will be tested the most.
We need to have faith that we are an absolutely integral piece of the cosmic puzzle we have found ourselves in, and to which we can contribute by very virtue of our existence.
We want to be, and deserve to be cared for, nurtured and believed in, and this journey starts with ourselves, and extends out to embrace every-widening circles and communities. But it starts with acknowledging our own agency, our own progress on this spiritual path of ours.
Let’s say it together. No, let’s sing it together.
I have faith in me.
Editor: Dana Gornall