Synonyms and History
I want to start by talking about the definition of “faith.” We could ask Siri, or Webster, or the Oxford English Dictionary, but those would be cold, sterile, denotative definitions. I’d rather talk about what faith means to most of us, connotatively – i.e. the way we respond to the word “faith.”
The definition that I’ve always used for faith is something along the lines of the belief, or the trust, that something will happen, despite a lack of evidence, or probability of it’s occurrence. Many people have a connotation of faith in a religious context, but faith is a more universal than any one theology, religion, or philosophy.
The Trust Component
I don’t trust anyone. That is, I don’t trust anyone completely. I started to learn early on in life that I shouldn’t trust people – even the ones closest to me. I’ve had that notion reinforced over and over again in life. I’ve been betrayed by family members, employers, friends, lovers, and the church. And each time my trust was broken, I’ve had to re-evaluate whether or not to trust again.
What I’ve eventually come to is a process by which I still end up giving people the benefit of the doubt most of the time, but I keep myself guarded and don’t put too much stock in things they promise. Once I truly get to know a person – like a family member, or a friend – I can start to, as I say, “trust them to be them.”
Here’s what I mean: Let’s say I have a friend – we’ll call him Dean since the friend I’m about to describe doesn’t actually exist in my life. Dean is loyal, he’s a lot of fun to hang out with at the bar, we play poker together every once in a while, or get together for game nights. I love Dean, because he’s a good friend. Let’s also say, that I know Dean is a shit driver with little regard for other people’s property. I trust Dean to be Dean – meaning, I’ll have a beer with him and maybe even ask his advice on some things, but I sure as hell won’t lend him my car.
Back on Topic…
One of those betrayals I mentioned before was that of the church.
I had faith in the Judeo-Christian God for a long time – devoutly, in fact – but that faith failed me. After a while the theology just didn’t make sense anymore and the mental gymnastics got too tiring, and one day, in a fit of honesty with myself, I realized that everything I thought I believed was bullshit. It was contrived by powerful men centuries and even millennia ago, and it has been perpetuated over the years by a vast conglomeration of governments and powerful church organizations bent on keeping control over their fragile flocks.
The men who decided which books would be in the Bible and which ones wouldn’t – the council of Nicaea – were of the same cloth as those who burned suspected witches at the stake, and who gave rise to the Inquisition and other atrocities in the name of their supposedly benevolent god.
Look, if you have faith in a religion, I don’t want to take that from you, because I hated going through the experience of losing my religion. What I will say is that I’m a more complete and a more authentic “me” now that I’m free of the burden of those standards – and I still have an abundance of faith, even if it’s not in a religion.
Be Honest with Yourself.
I’m sorry. I really am. Because I know how many of you buy into a preacher’s message without thinking it through. Hell, I did it for years, and I voted accordingly (you’re welcome, W.). But now I realize that nobody has it right – and I’m okay with that.
The Christians think they have it right because that’s built into their theology – Jesus himself, according to the gospels, said “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Muslims also think they have it right, because their prophet (PBUH) came afterward and was supposedly the reckoning between Christianity and Judaism. Those of Jewish faith think they have it right because their religion started it all. Hindus and Buddhists think they have it right. The Native Americans and tribes all over the world have always thought they had it right.
Over the millennia, every culture has created stories about supernatural forces controlling the destiny of their people and being able to intervene. From the West African stories of Anansi the Spider, to the Greek stories of Zeus and Poseidon, we’ve all had to rely on a narrative to explain the world around us. And make no mistake, science is a narrative, too – but it’s evidence based (even though sometimes it takes even more faith than religion).
Here’s my question…
At what point do we stop waiting for magical help from the sky and start having confidence and faith in our own abilities to get us to where we want to be?
Look, I’m well past the point where I’m going to actively go after anyone for having faith in God – however you see him/her/it, but I will actively get pissed and get in your face if you start making stupid public policy decisions because of those beliefs, or if you start making excuses for your own bad behavior because of those beliefs.
For example, if you lose your job because you’re late every third day, it’s not God’s will that you lost your job. It’s because you lacked the self-discipline to make it to work on time.
And that’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world… if you take responsibility for it and learn from it. On the other hand, if you use your faith to keep making excuses for your own faults, rather than cultivating yourself, then you’re waiting in vain. No magical man in the sky is going to fix your tardiness for you.
You’re responsible for your own life…
Now, I’m not only saying this in terms of the fact that we all have to own up to our bad decisions, but rather to point out that nobody but you is responsible for your own happiness. Not a spouse, not a loved one, not a sibling, not a friend. Having those people around can be helpful, for sure, but ultimately, they’re not responsible for your happiness. Why would you wish that on them? They have their own lives to deal with.
My Final Thoughts for This Weekend…
You are stronger than you know. We all are. No matter how far we think we’ve been tested, we can all go a bit further. Maybe not at the moment… and that’s okay, but eventually you can. Maybe you need some time to rest and get stronger. That’s okay. But we can all get better if we commit to it. And, tying into the Thoughts for Thursday series I’ve been on the last couple of weeks, if we all focus on making ourselves the best “us” we can be, then the whole world will be perfected one person at a time.
Have a great weekend, everyone, and please try to be your best, most genuine and authentic selves this weekend. I will too. See you on Monday!
*This post was a little late because it was ridiculously long at first and contained a bunch of stuff that nobody really needs to read.