Fostering Faith

 

Sustaining a practice and maintaining ease in life takes effort and fortitude. I find that remembering what I have faith in, and nourishing this faith, helps to sustain me through the hard times. So this has become the topic of my article this month: finding, fostering, and focusing on faith. We all have faith in some form – may this help you remember yours!

You block your dream when you allow your fear
to grow bigger than your faith.

Mary Manin Morrissey

Fostering Faith

Faith is confidence in something – a person, statement, idea or thing – without a need for certain proof.  Our faith is shaped by our experience, our overall disposition, and our choices.

I have often heard others claim that a person either has faith or doesn’t, and that is that.  I accepted this for some time, being grateful for my own capacity to experience and use faith in my life.  However, in my work with others, I have gained clear evidence that faith can be discovered within the skeptic, and that there are means by which we can foster faith so that it is more available to any of us in our daily lives.

What do you have faith in?  This is an important question.  There needs to be a “what” for faith to exist, but the object of faith varies widely among us.  Trying to conform our faith to the focus of others’ faith – someone else’s “what” – can lead to doubt, disbelief, and discouragement.  Here are a few ways to think about faith that I have found helpful:

Finding your Faith

You may not have faith in a religious teaching or practice, yet have faith in what your senses tell you about the world.  It is easy to have faith that the sun will come up tomorrow, and that night will follow day, followed by night again in an ongoing succession. But imagine experiencing a total solar eclipse in mid-day, without the benefit of scientific explanation!  Any unexpected or unexplained event can shake our faith in what we thought we knew.  Thus our fear grows large when faith is lost or shaken. Yet having faith in what will happen next mitigates the fear of the unknown.

Developing the Faith you have 

What we have faith in affects our level of confidence in that arena, and thereby, our ability to take action.  Our faith may be very specific and simple.  For example, I have faith in my luck around finding parking spaces.  Because of this faith, I am willing to risk driving more places in my city and have found that my faith is usually well-founded.  My experience grows my faith, which encourages more attempts to park on the busy city streets, thus further increasing my faith-enhancing experience.  Even in recent times, as I avoid driving when I can, my parking faith remains strong.

Deeper, more central aspects of faith are much more important to identify and develop.  For example, a core statement of faith for me is that I have faith in the power of relationships to heal and foster growth. This faith is the foundation of my work as a coach and psychotherapist.  Each relationship is different, and therefore I can’t predict how each will develop.  Still, my faith keeps me engaged through some of the most difficult and darkest times. Often, my job is to hold the faith for both of us, moment by moment.  As relationships deepen and healing occurs, my core faith in relational presence and connection grows stronger and more steadfast.

Focusing on Faith

As we go deeper in identifying the faith we have, and take the time to nurture that faith or explore where it springs from, we inevitably end up discovering our working answers to some of the central existential questions of all time:  Who am I?  Why am I here?  What’s the purpose of life?  What happens when I die?  Most faith traditions offer some ways to think about or even answer these questions, as well as guidelines for practicing a lifestyle that brings us into greater harmony with ourselves, our fellow beings, and our experience.  All of the world’s religions share these elements. What is your experience with faith traditions or communities?

There are other kinds of faith communities which are not considered religious in nature.  For example, scientific or academic communities have faith in research and study to result in a greater understanding of the world, which can then be used for the betterment or health of all.  Non-profits have faith in the willingness of those with plenty to share their resources with the less fortunate.  The community of public service and politics shares faith in the capacity of democratic leadership and government to create positive solutions for community problems, and provide positive stewardship for community resources.  What communities of faith do you belong to?  What is the faith that you share?  How does your involvement in this community grow your faith?

Fear and Faith 

Finally, I would suggest that faith is the most useful antidote for fear.  What are you most afraid of?  Fear can weaken our capacity to act, while faith can inspire us to action and engagement.  Afraid of what is happening to the environment?  Then grow your faith in an environmental group or organization by investing your time or other resources to their mission.  Concerned about politics?  Decide where to put your faith and get engaged in whatever way you can.  If we wait until we are sure, until we have proof, to invest our time or energy, it will be too late.  Faith is a practice for today, now, this moment.  We can discover what we have faith in, and nurture our faith so that it grows stronger.  How will you live your faith today?

Faith is taking the first step,
even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

~  Action On Purpose Challenge  ~

1 – What do you have faith in?  Start a list!

2 – Where you have deep faith, explore where it comes from.  Does it grow out of particular experiences? Was it fostered by the influence of a parent, teacher or religious organization? Does it just seem to be there?  Did you intentionally develop your faith?

3 – What are the fears that threaten your faith? What do you wish you had more faith in?

4 – Affirm your faith in the face of your fears.